A fatal accident at Mar Jacques Poultry Company leaves the community in shock, asking: “Why?”

A fatal accident at Mar Jacques Poultry Company leaves the community in shock, asking: “Why?”

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – Questions abounded after the Pine Belt community learned that a 16-year-old boy was killed in an accident at a local chicken plant.

The accident occurred at the Mar-Jac Hattiesburg poultry processing plant on Friday, July 14. The victim’s friends and family later identified the teen as Duvan Perez in social media posts, expressing shock at his death and wondering why it happened.

According to Guatemalan media reports, Pérez was originally from the village of Huespachi in Guatemala, and immigrated to the Hattiesburg area when he was still a young child. He was a student in the Hattiesburg Public School District at the time of his death.

Many questions have been raised online about how a 16-year-old could work at the Mar Jacques factory in the first place. Under federal law, minors are prohibited from working in meat and poultry plants because the Department of Labor (DOL) has declared the jobs “particularly hazardous” or “harmful to their health or well-being.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), specifically, lists the sanitation of meat and poultry plant equipment as a hazardous activity prohibited for underage workers.

According to a press release from Mar-Jac Poultry MS LLC, Perez was “conducting sanitation operations” when the accident occurred.

It is not known at this time how Perez got the job at Mar Jacques Poultry.

Multiple agencies have opened investigations into Perez’s death. At the scene, the Hattiesburg Police Department began a death investigation and notified all safety officials required in connection with the work, including the Department of Labor. There are two investigations open at the Department of Labor: one by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and one by the Wage and Hour Division.

The Wage and Hour Division is the federal office responsible for enforcing federal labor laws, such as the FLSA.

All investigations are in the preliminary stages, and the Department of Labor said it cannot provide comment at this time.

This is not the first fatal accident at the Hattiesburg Mar Jacques plant. Including Perez’s death, the company has seen three deaths and one amputation in the past three years. OSHA previously cited it in 2020 and 2021 for four safety violations in three separate incidents, with initial total fines of $52,355. All three incidents remain open with OSHA.

WDAM will continue to update the story as new details emerge.

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