No evidence of intoxication in sulfuric acid death

Toxicology reports show that 18-year-old Fernando Gonzalez had no intoxicating substances in his bloodstream when he fell headfirst into a vat of sulfuric acid and drowned the morning of Sept. 23, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said Thursday.

Gonzalez, an employee at the facility, was dipping circuit boards into a container of acid at Coastal Circuits, a factory at 1602 Tacoma Way, when he became overwhelmed by fumes and fell into unconsciousness, Redwood City police Sgt. Steve Dowden said.

Gonzalez was discovered at approximately 1:45 a.m. by his father, also an employee at the factory, when the younger man failed to return home from work.

The toxicology test results confirm that Gonzalez asphyxiated after the upper half of his body became submerged in the fluid, Foucrault said.

Although the mixture of sulfuric acid and water Gonzalez fell into had a pH level equivalent to that of battery acid, he would have suffered only surface wounds from exposure to the substance, Foucrault said.

Information from the toxicology report will become part of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s investigation into the incident.

That investigation, launched Sept. 24, is ongoing and is expected to take a total of two to three months, OSHA spokeswoman Kate McGuire said.

Once OSHA’s investigation is complete, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office will determine whether Coastal Circuits is liable for any wrongdoing, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Police believe that there is no evidence of foul play in Gonzalez’s death, Dowden said.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that this death was an intentional act by anybody,” Wagstaffe said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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