HATTIESBURG, MISS. —More details came out concerning the accident at the Mar-Jac Poultry facility in Hattiesberg, Miss., that left a 16-year-old worker dead as federal administrators started their investigation of the matter.

Officials from the poultry company said in its latest statement to MEAT+POULTRY that the employee suffered a fatal injury when he was entangled in machinery while cleaning on July 14.

Company officials also explained how the worker was employed at the plant.

“Mar-Jac MS would never knowingly put any employee, and certainly not a minor, in harm’s way but it appears, at this point in the investigation, that this individual’s age and identity were misrepresented on the paperwork,” Mar-Jac said.

Multiple media reports identified Duvan Tomas Perez as the victim. According to a report in The New York Times, he immigrated to the US from Guatemala about six years ago. 

“This tragedy was compounded when we learned the victim was a minor,” Mar-Jac said. “Due to an unprecedented tight labor market Mar-Jac MS relies on staffing companies to fill positions at its facility.”

Mar-Jac said the company is required to verify every applicant is legally qualified to work before starting any job, including the I-9 Form from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the E-Verify system. 

The company noted it is undertaking a thorough audit with the staffing companies to ensure this error never happens again. 

“There are many hardworking young people in Mississippi and elsewhere who are eager to work to support themselves and their families. But the law does not allow those under the age of 18 to perform certain dangerous tasks and Mar-Jac MS is dedicated to complying with the law,” the company said. “We are devastated at the loss of life, and deeply regret that an underage individual was hired without our knowledge.”

A spokesperson from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed that the agency and its Wage and Hour Division opened inspections at this facility but did not have any other information.