Wine Making

Four dead in Italy as gas from wine fermentation overwhelmed them

Four Italian men between the ages of 40 and 70 perished while producing wine from their family vineyard over the weekend, according to Italian firefighters.

The men, Santino and Massimo Carnevale, aged 70 and 45, and brothers Giacomo and Valerio Scofano, aged 70 and 50, were all related and took part in an annual wine tradition near the town of Paola in southern Calabria. One of the victims, Valerio Scofano, was not supposed to be in the hangar, having been sentenced to house arrest in his house several miles away for harassing a former lover.

They were found on the floor of a small shed where they were fermenting grapes without adequate ventilation. Local prosecutor Pierpaolo Bruni said an investigation into the deaths would be opened, but the room was “not sufficiently ventilated” for the high level of carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process.

Roberto Perrotta, the mayor of Paola, said the tragedy had caused “pain to the whole community”, according to local media.

When first responders arrived, family members who were already at the scene briefly erupted into a scuffle with local reporters who had been following the emergency vehicles, possibly to protect the identity of the victim of the l house arrest that shouldn’t have been there.

Police speculate that one of the older men first entered the shed to stir the fermenting grape vat as they prepared to transfer the liquid to vats when it was overrun by fumes. The second older man then likely entered to save him, but was also defeated. The two younger men and a woman who is said to be the stepdaughter of one of the men also followed. The woman passed out near the entrance and was resuscitated and is recovering at a local hospital.

The authorities do not suspect a criminal act.

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