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Dumpster sleeper survives compacting

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A man sleeping in a dumpster for recycled cardboard was scooped up and compacted several times early this morning before the driver realized his plight.

Officials with the Albany Police Department said Ivan Rosalio Mendez Perez, 23, suffered a fractured leg. He was taken to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Corvallis for treatment, where he was listed in good condition Thursday afternoon.

Captain Eric Carter said he didn't know the location of the container Perez had chosen to sleep in.

“The driver became aware of it at Big 5 Sporting Goods because the subject was throwing cardboard out of the truck," Carter said. "He got out to look and heard Mr. Perez yelling, so he contacted us. Albany Fire also responded to remove Mr. Perez from the truck.”

This is the second dumpster-crushing incident in five years, Carter said. In May 2011, the body of Gordon Gene Lemke, a 50-year-old transient who had moved to the mid-valley from California, was discovered when a load of cardboard was left at an Allied Waste sorting station. 

Julie Jackson, municipal manager from Republic Services, said her company frequently does public outreach about the dangers of climbing into dumpsters. Representatives talk to schools and hand out fliers at Helping Hands homeless shelter to caution people to stay away.

So-called "dumpster diving" is an industry-wide problem, whether it's a child looking for a place to play, a transient looking for a place to sleep or a consumer looking for a bargain, Jackson said. It's very hard for a driver to see a person inside.

"This a front load truck. The driver doesn’t even get out. They'll pull up, connect the bars on the front of truck to the grooves on the side of the dumpster, and it goes straight up. It doesn’t tip until it's above their heads at the back of truck," she said.

The company has about 50 drivers who clean out the contents of approximately 100 dumpsters per day, she said. On a handful of occasions, she said, she's heard about drivers who connect their truck arms to the trash container only to have someone inside jump out and run away.

"I don’t know what the fix is," she said, adding: "The fix is, stay out of dumpsters. Pretty simple.”

Carter agreed, saying Perez is lucky to be alive. 

"Do not play in (dumpsters), do not go into them, do not seek shelter in them, do not sleep in them," he said. “Those drivers don’t know.”


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