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A 24 Year Old Died Laying Cable In Texas Heat

Gabriel Infante plays the saxophone in an undated family photo. He died of heat stroke at age 24 after working a construction job in 101-degree weather last year. Velma Infante, his mother, is suing the construction company.

When the ambulance picked up 24-year-old Gabriel Infante, his internal body temperature was nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

It was heat stroke, and emergency responders rushed him to the hospital. Infante had been at work, laying fiber optic cables on a 101-degree day in San Antonio, when he’d started acting confused and dizzy. He’d fallen twice, and his best friend had started pouring water over him, trying to cool him off.

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Hours later, Infante would die at the hospital — a victim of extreme heat and, a lawsuit filed by his mother alleges, failure by his construction company to keep its workers safe in the hazardous June weather. He was one of hundreds of people to die of heat-related causes last year.

This summer, as record heat waves scorch large swaths of the country, workers continue laboring in temperatures above 100 degrees, risking illness and death. When heat conditions become too extreme, the human body begins losing its ability to cool down.

The United States remains gripped by a weeks-long heat dome, with 59 million Americans in the path of hazardous conditions on Saturday and the heat index again forecast to reach a dangerous zone in much of the South and parts of California and Arizona. This past week, thousands of people went to the emergency room for heat-related illness, according to federal tracking, and deaths have been reported in multiple states this summer.

With the threat of extreme heat expected to worsen as climate change progresses, scientists say, millions of Americans are projected to experience high temperatures more frequently and in longer waves.

Across Texas last year, at least 306 people died of heat, according to preliminary data from the Texas Department of State Health Services — the state’s highest number in the past decade. Because of lags in death reporting, the state has not finalized those tallies and does not yet know how many people have died this year.

Infante’s case — and the plight of others who labor in the heat, such as UPS drivers, who are on the brink of a strike over issues including non-air-conditioned trucks — sits at the intersection of climate change and workers’ rights. And it raises questions about how humanity will adapt to a warming planet.

“Something has to be done,” Infante’s mother, Velma Infante, said Friday. “These workers, in any line of work … you can’t have them [out there] and not have them take the time to rest and hydrate.”Gabriel Infante was a quiet, laid-back guy who played the saxophone and filled notebooks with song lyrics, did math equations faster than his mother could swipe to her phone’s calculator and was the baby brother to four older siblings, his mother said. He had struggled with dyslexia but hoped to one day finish his bachelor’s degree.

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