REDWOOD CITY -- An employee at a Redwood City Grocery Outlet was killed Thursday night in an accident involving a machine used to compact cardboard for recycling, officials said today.

The store janitor was found by another employee around 10 p.m. crushed to death in a compactor/baler in the store at 1833 Broadway, according to California Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokesman Peter Melton.

The employee has been identified as Mendie Udo, 43, of Burlingame, according to the San Mateo County coroner's bureau.

Cal/OSHA has sent an investigator to the site and has removed the piece of equipment for inspection, Melton said.

Melton said the Redwood City store does not have a record of previous problems.

A company spokeswoman said today that Udo had worked at the Redwood City store for more than five years, and that he was well liked.

The death has sent a shock through the organization, Grocery Outlet spokeswoman Melissa Porter said today.

"We are very dismayed, he was an employee that had been with us for a while," Porter said.

Company officials have been on site today working with OSHA and police investigators and trying to comfort employees, Porter said.

Porter said the machine involved in the accident is commonly used in retail outlets to compact cardboard into a bale for recycling. She described the machine as "complicated" and noted that it cannot be legally used by minors.

However, there were no witnesses to the accident, so store officials can only speculate on what happened, Porter said.

Store employees were given the choice of whether to open the store today, and chose to open late in the morning, Porter said.

"They're a very tight family down there," Porter said of the Redwood City store's staff. "They're being together and supporting each other."

Redwood City police referred questions on the incident to fire officials and the coroner's office. Calls to fire officials have not yet been returned.



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