By Rick Sallinger

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A 50-year-old woman died and 33 people were determined to have suffered salmonella poisoning after eating at La California restaurant in Aurora.

The outbreak was in November 2017. The investigation traced the illness to those who had eaten the family combo meal. A worker tested positive for the salmonella bacteria.fatal salmonella poisoning 6map frame 911 Health Officials Defend Decision To Keep Restaurant Open After Salmonella Death

CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger reached a woman by phone whose daughter, Denise Casteneda died. The mother, who asked not to use her name, was hospitalized. The family had gotten carry out food from the restaurant and became ill.

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(credit: CBS)

She told Sallinger, “They didn’t quite know what caused it until they took me to the hospital. I was there for two days and that’s when they told me I had salmonella.”

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Inspections were conducted at La California after the outbreak was discovered. Problems with handwashing, hot food, cooling of foods and lack of hot water in the sink were reported.

Tri County Health’s executive director John Douglas said they did not feel it was necessary to close the restaurant or warn the public.

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CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger interviews Tri County Health’s executive director John Douglas (credit: CBS)

“We try to strike a balance between alarming the public and letting the public know when there are ongoing things they can do to prevent that.”

He said they felt it was safe to keep the restaurant open and it would help obtain the owner’s cooperation.

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(credit: CBS)

Sallinger asked the mother of the woman who died what she thought about the restaurant remaining open.

“I think it’s terrible because there’s other people who could get sick,” she said.

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(credit: CBS)

The restaurant did not return calls asking for comment.

Sallinger asked Douglas, “Would you eat at this restaurant now?” and he replied, “I would, yeah.”

The family of the woman who died says they are considering a lawsuit.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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