4 Family Members Dead After Freak Wine-Making Accident

Four family members in an Italian village died in a freak wine-making accident over the weekend, according to multiple reports. The town's mayor reportedly told local media that the entire community is deeply saddened over the tragedy.

The accident occurred on Saturday at the family's vineyard in Paola, a town in the Italian province of Calabria, Insider reported. The four men—Giacomo and Valerio Scofano, aged 70 and 50, as well as Santino and Massimo Carnevale, aged 70 and 45—were participating in an annual winemaking tradition, when one of the men went into the vineyard's shed to stir the fermenting grapes.

According to the University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, the fermentation process produces carbon dioxide gas. However, carbon dioxide gas can often be hard to detect, as it is both colorless and odorless.

"Excessive carbon dioxide in the air can cause headache, sweating, rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness," the department said on its website.

"Higher levels of carbon dioxide can result in more serious and immediate effects including coma, asphyxia, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death," the department continued.

To avoid carbon dioxide poisoning during the fermentation process, the workspace should be properly ventilated. The department recommended individuals use both mechanical exhaust ventilation and natural ventilation, i.e. opening doors and windows.

Additionally, individuals are encouraged to monitor the levels of carbon dioxide in work areas and compare them with occupational exposure limits.

But local prosecutor Pierpaolo Bruni said that the shed was "not sufficiently ventilated," reported the Daily Beast.

Police believe that when the first man succumbed to the toxic fumes, a family member attempted to save him. When that family member also passed out, the other two men tried to intervene.

First responders found all four men on the floor of the shed, the Daily Beast said.

The 36-year-old daughter-in-law of one of the men was also found at the scene. The Telegraph reported that she, too, was found unconscious, but was resuscitated by neighbors and taken to a nearby hospital to recover. It is believed that she was also trying to help save her family members.

Officials reportedly don't know which family member was the first to lose consciousness, but they do not suspect foul play.

Roberto Perrotta, the mayor of Paola, reportedly told local media that the tragedy caused "pain to the whole community," as well as "enormous sorrow."

wine cellar
Four family members in an Italian village died in a freak wine-making accident over the weekend. The incident occurred at the family's vineyard in Paola, Italy. RCerruti/iStock