- A SpaceX engineer was injured while testing a rocket part, leaving him in a coma for months, sources say.
- OSHA said Francisco Cabada was hospitalized with head trauma and a fractured skull.
- The regulatory agency fined SpaceX more than $18,400 for two safety violations stemming from the accident.
An engineer working at Elon Musk’s SpaceX was in a coma for months after being knocked unconscious while testing a rocket part, sources told Insider.
Los Angeles father-of-three Francisco Cabada was conducting a routine rocket test on Jan. 18 this year at SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, Calif., according to former intern Julia Crowley Farenga, who spoke to Insider about the accident of February 10.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in an accident investigation summary that Cabada, an integration technician, was performing checks on a Raptor V2 engine.
While performing the test, a valve became highly pressurized and blew a plate which then hit him, knocking him to the ground, Crowley Farenga said.
Two other unnamed sources familiar with the matter confirmed the crash involving Cabada to Insider.
“The final step of the pressure control operation, ventilation, was performed for the first time using an automated program as opposed to the normal manual method that had been used in previous operations,” indicates the OSHA summary. “Immediately after initiating automated ventilation, the employee was struck by the fuel controller cover which detached from the controller module.”
OSHA said Cabada was hospitalized due to head trauma and a fractured skull. He then remained in a coma for months, OSHA said.
OSHA fined SpaceX more than $18,400 for two safety violations following the January crash. One of the violations was considered the most serious penalty with the most seriousness, according to OSHA’s investigation summary. The OSHA website states that the maximum penalty per violation is $14,502.
A GoFundMe page, which says it was started by Cabada’s sister-in-law, says his wife and three children struggled financially because he was the “primary breadwinner.” More than $51,000 has been raised so far, and the page shows hundreds of donations from people who work at SpaceX.
Semafor also reported on the incident. The California Department of Industrial Relations said Cabada’s injuries affected his head, respiratory system, and upper and lower extremities, according to Semafor’s report.
Cabada’s lawyer told Semafor that an investigation into the causes of the accident was underway.
Cabada’s brother-in-law, as well as his lawyer, told Semafor that the SpaceX worker is now out of a coma but remains in hospital because he was unable to communicate or survive without medical help.
Cabada’s sister posted a TikTok video on March 16 about the accident, which explained how much the family missed him.
CrowleyFarenga told Insider that SpaceX typically performs a root cause analysis whenever there is an incident and that is normally released within a day. However, SpaceX has not released any analysis related to this incident, according to Crowley Farenga.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Semafor reported that former employees said SpaceX did not make a public announcement about the accident.
Are you a SpaceX employee who was present during the accident? Please feel free to get in touch using a non-professional email address with Kate Duffy at [email protected] or Sam Tabahriti at [email protected].