Accident victim dies after years in coma

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By Roger Snodgrass

A tragic chapter for the community and particularly for Efren Martinez of Cordova, N.M. and his family came to a close this week. Martinez died Tuesday after 13 ½ years in a coma caused by a traumatic electrical accident while working for a construction contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Martinez’ brother-in-law Richard Pacheco, speaking for family, said, “This brings closure to the family. We did not want him to be forgotten.”

The accident occurred on Jan. 17, 1996. The father of two sons, he was 35 years old at the time, when a jackhammer he was using struck a 13,200 volt power line. According to Monitor reports from that time, Martinez was working in a basement at the former Plutonium Processing Facility on DP Road. He suffered massive electrical shock and went into cardiac arrest. He was treated by employees and emergency technicians who rushed to the site and was then taken to the intensive care unit at  Los Alamos Medical Center. His heart was restarted, but he never woke up again.

During the years that followed, his case became symbolic of inadequate safety practices at Los Alamos. According to the Monitor summary, construction projects were halted for a lengthy period of time while reviews were conducted.

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