Jay Mather / Bee file, 2004

Aerojet Corp. in Rancho Cordova is seen in this 2004 aerial photograph.

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Injured Aerojet worker dies; investigation into blast continues

Published: Wednesday, May. 7, 2014 - 9:52 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 - 12:22 pm

Nearly five months after an explosion at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s campus in Rancho Cordova, one of the injured workers has died.

The cause of the Nov. 19 incident remains under investigation.

Robert F. Ortiz, 54, of Citrus Heights, died April 14 at UC Davis Medical Center, according to Sacramento County records.

His brother David, also an Aerojet employee, said Robert had worked for the rocket-engine manufacturer for 33 years.

Officials with Aerojet and its corporate parent, GenCorp Inc., couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The explosion rocked the Aerojet complex off Highway 50 shortly before 8 a.m. Ortiz was one of two workers injured; the other was treated for less serious injuries. FBI agents, detectives from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad and multiple units from the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District rushed to the scene. However, investigators quickly determined the case was an industrial accident, not a criminal matter, and turned the incident over to the California Division of Occupational Safety.

The details of the blast remain a mystery. Aerojet hasn’t made any announcements about the explosion, and Cal/OSHA spokesman Peter Melton would say only that the agency is continuing to investigate. Because a worker died, the investigation could result in more serious penalties, he said.

“Now it’s a fatality investigation,” he said. “It’s more serious.”

David Ortiz said the family has learned very little about the explosion, but “we know it wasn’t his fault.”

Ortiz suffered burns and other injuries in the accident, according to his death certificate. The cause of death was listed as “hemorrhagic cerebrovascular accident,” which is a form of stroke.

A memorial service was held in late April at the International Association of Machinists’ union hall in Rancho Cordova, according to the union’s website. Leaders of the local couldn’t be reached for comment.

David Ortiz said other family members have worked at Aerojet over the years, including their father and an uncle. But until now no one in the family had suffered any serious injuries.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

Read more articles by Dale Kasler

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