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An Italian winemaker reportedly drowned in a vat of wine after becoming dizzy from nitrogen gases and falling into the fermenting brew while trying to save a colleague.
Marco Bettolini, 46, was reaching for his colleague Alberto Pin, 31, when he was lost his balance after being overcome with dizziness caused by the intoxicating fumes emitted during the winemaking process on Thursday, The Telegraph reported.
It is believed that Pin entered the autoclave of the vat at the Ca’ di Rajo winery in northeastern Italy around 2 p.m., after noticing the taps were malfunctioning and fell ill from the fumes.
Bettolini followed him in to help and was stricken by the fumes himself.
Bettolini fell a few feet and smacked his head at the bottom, where some wine still sat, according to local paper Tribuna di Treviso.
Pin was taken to a hospital in Teviso in serious condition, according to Wine News.
He is in a medically-induced coma after having his heart restarted, according to News Italy 24.
The entire tragedy was caught on surveillance footage, which has not been released.
“We are overwhelmed by grief. For us, these people are two brothers, two sons. My thoughts go to these two men, who grew up with us, and to their families,” winery owner Simone Cecchetto, told Tribuna di Treviso. “We pray for the injured young man, for his prompt recovery.”
Bettolini worked for the company since 2018 and was a winemaker and cellar manager, Wine News reported.
“He was a great worker, a very generous and reserved person,” a colleague said, according to La Repubblica.
The experienced enologist also worked as a consultant for various wine companies, and also worked as an agronomist, specializing in soil management and crop production, according to his LinkedIn.
Veneto President Luca Zaia honored the two workers, telling Tribuna di Treviso: “Why today? Why so much pain to those who certainly didn’t deserve it? I express my deepest condolences to the families overwhelmed by this tragedy and to all those who loved and knew the victim and who are now anxious for their hospitalized colleague.”
The incident is under investigation and no one has been charged, though it has raised concerns about the safety of production in Italy’s wine industry.
Chief Prosecutor Marco Martani said preliminary information gathered suggested “no one should have entered that autoclave,” according to News Italy 24.
Martani said an outside company should have been called in for the malfunction and special masks and systems should have been used.
Following the tradegy, Ca’ di Rajo’s employees gathered together to leave a bouquet of flowers in the cellar.
“Alberto and Marco are two brothers for me and for all of us, this is a family for us,” Andrea Zanella, a coworker, told La Repubblica. “We have become close in pain and we are close to the families of Marco and Alberto. We ask for respect for our immense pain. We only hope that Alberto can return to us soon. Marco is a hero for us.”