A contractor injured in January in a fire at the Bayer Pharmaceuticals lab in West Berkeley died Monday.
Ben Casillas Jr., 38, suffered third-degree burns on 80% of his body Jan. 17 while installing flooring at the pharmaceutical company, according to a GoFundMe page created shortly after the incident. He was the sole provider for his wife and two children, aged 12 and 9.
The San Francisco Office of Vital Records confirmed the San Joaquin County man’s death Wednesday morning after The Berkeley Scanner reported the death Tuesday. Authorities have notified his next of kin.
Another flooring contractor, Saul Sanchez, suffered severe burns while attempting to rescue Casillas from the blaze. A GoFundMe page for Sanchez had raised almost $40,000 by Wednesday morning, while Casillas’ fundraiser had received over $90,000.
Joe Christophe, president of the contractors’ employer, Anderson Commercial Flooring, said that Sanchez is recovering, and the company is working on a return-to-work program. He said the company had never seen a burn injury in its 69-year history, and Casillas’ loss has hit hard in what Christophe called “a close-knit family organization.”
“Our thoughts and hearts go out to the families,” Christophe said.
Christophe and Catherine Keck, Bayer’s global head of biotech communications, said their companies are awaiting official reports from Cal/OSHA and the Berkeley Fire Department.
Keck said the fire did not affect Bayer’s pharmaceutical supply levels, and the company is conducting an internal investigation in addition to working with authorities.
“The company’s highest priority is the health and safety of its employees, contractors and the patients and customers we serve,” Keck said.
First responders arrived at the Bayer facility at 800 Dwight Way around 11 a.m. Jan. 17. Firefighters found Sanchez and Casillas on the second floor of one of the lab’s buildings, Asst. Chief Keith May said at the time.
Fire crews extinguished the fire, which remained contained in the room where it started, while paramedics rushed Casillas and Sanchez to a hospital.
The building’s fire extinguishers successfully activated during the incident, May said.
Christophe said Anderson Commercial Flooring organized both contractors’ GoFundMe campaigns. He posted on LinkedIn the week after the fire, asking followers to support the campaigns and describing Casillas and Sanchez as “exceptional human beings” and “masters at their craft.”
Casillas, according to his GoFundMe, began working at Anderson Commercial Flooring in 2004, when he was 19. He was promoted to foreman the month before the fire.
This story has been updated since its original post.