Teen Killed in Chicken Plant Accident Prompts Federal Investigation

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A 16-year-old boy lost his life in a tragic accident at Mar-Jac Poultry in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, sparking a federal investigation into child labor practices. Duvan Robert Tomas Pérez was fatally injured on July 14 while cleaning in the deboning area of the chicken processing plant. His family has since filed a lawsuit seeking compensation and holding the plant, its contractor Ōnin Staffing, the human resources director, and the on-duty safety supervisor accountable for their alleged negligence.

The lawsuit alleges that Pérez got caught in a rotating shaft and sprockets, being pulled into the machine. The family’s attorney, Jim Reeves, criticized Mar-Jac Poultry for its lack of safety measures, citing a previous similar incident that resulted in another worker’s death. Reeves emphasized that Mar-Jac’s safety record is alarming and that immediate changes need to be made to prevent future tragedies.

Mar-Jac and Ōnin Staffing have not yet responded to requests for comment on the matter. However, Mar-Jac released a statement expressing their devastation over the loss of life and claiming they were unaware of Pérez’s age and misrepresented identity at the time of hiring.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the accident occurred because proper lockout/tagout procedures were not followed to disconnect power to the machine. OSHA found Mar-Jac Poultry responsible for 14 serious and three “other-than-serious” violations, proposing over $200,000 in penalties.

Tragically, Pérez’s death marks the third worker fatality at the Mar-Jac plant in less than three years.