Defective McDonald's Soda Machine Electrocutes, Kills Two Employees

Two teenage McDonald's employees in Lima, Peru, died after they were electrocuted by a defective soda machine, according to local news outlets.

Carlos Gabriel Campos Zapata, 19, and Alexandra Antonella Porras Inga, 18, died on December 15 as they cleaned the McDonald's in Lima's Pueblo Libre district, Agence France-Presse reported. According to Sky News, the two were a couple who had worked at the restaurant for several months.

Lima is the capital of Peru and has a population of nearly 9 million people, slightly more than New York City.

In Peru, McDonald's restaurants are owned by a company called Arcos Dorados (Spanish for "golden arches"), which also runs the restaurants in several other Latin American countries. All 29 McDonald's locations in Peru have been closed while police investigate the deaths and learn more about what specifically caused them. The company confirmed that the soda machine that caused the deaths will no longer be used, AFP reported.

In a statement to Newsweek, a McDonald's spokesperson wrote that the company considers the safety of employees a "global priority." The spokesperson also said the company has extended its condolences to the affected families and stressed that McDonald's is "working with [its] local partner, who is conducting a thorough investigation with local authorities."

The deaths prompted relatives of the deceased, as well as about 80 other people, to stage a protest in the city against McDonald's on Saturday afternoon, according to Reuters.

Campos Zapata's mother, Rocío Zapata, has accused restaurant of not training its employees well enough.

In a statement from Arcos Dorados shared with Newsweek, the company expressed sorrow and regret for the loss of life.

"During the time since the incident, we have been in close and direct contact with the families of our deceased crewmembers and the restaurant employees affected by this dreadful tragedy to provide all the necessary support and counseling during this difficult time," the statement read.

A spokesperson for the Peruvian division of Arcos Dorados emailed Newsweek another company statement that said it regretted the deaths and has assumed responsibility for the accident. The statement added that Arcos Dorados Peru would be conducting internal audits of all of its restaurants to better ensure its workers' safety.

Both statements also said that Arcos Dorados had declared a 48-hour period of mourning in solidarity with the victims' families.

In an announcement released December 16, the Superintendencia Nacional de Fiscalización Laboral, which the section of Peru's government dedicated to workplace safety, said that if the investigation of the deaths determines that McDonald's was found to have exhibited "non-compliance with occupational safety and health obligations," Arcos Dorados could face a fine of up to 189,000 Peruvian soles, or almost $57,000.

Jose Carlos Andrade, the general director of Arcos Dorados, told a local TV station that managers at the restaurant were aware that the machine was faulty and required attention at least 24 hours before the two workers died. However, immediate action was not taken to fix it.

"This has hit us all very hard, and we are working hard to review all our processes, all our protocols, to ensure such a thing does not happen again," Andrade told the station.

According to The New York Times, the incident at McDonald's is only the latest development in an ongoing debate about working conditions in Peru and in McDonald's restaurants around the globe. Since the deaths were made public, many young Peruvians have taken to social media to tell their stories about the harrowing working conditions they have experienced.

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A McDonald's in downtown San Antonio. Robert Alexander/Getty