The little known muerte dulce or “sweet death” struck again last week as a pair of winery workers died after one fell into a fermentation vat in La Rioja and his brother-in-law then fell in as well when he tried to save him.
The men were named by local media as Gerardo Jubera and Felix Crespo, 60 and 61, from the Crespo Zabala family winery, in Lanciego, in the Basque Country, in northern Spain.
Ana Rosa Gutiérrez, professor of Food Technology at the University of La Rioja, explained to the COPE radio station that “sweet death,” is caused “when sugar is transformed into alcohol during fermentation, much of the sugar is converted into carbon dioxide that can overcome anyone”
Local media reported that Jubera was checking on the fermentation process of the recently harvested wine in a warehouse when he slipped and fell into the vat on 1st October.
Then Crespo rushed to help him but both of the men died apparently after being overcome by carbon dioxide fumes.
Local Mayor Itziar de Alava Martinez de Icaya said: “It’s something we would all do to save a family member.”
She added that the two men were reportedly well-known in the town and their deaths have left locals “deeply shocked”.
A 31-year-old man, who has not been named, was also affected by the toxic fumes and was helicoptered to a hospital in Logrono.
The municipality of Lanciego is in the wine denomination region of Rioja Alavesa and consists of three towns: Lanciego, Assa and Viñaspre with a total population of approximately 650 residents.
The region is famous for its production of dark red, full-bodied Rioja wine.
The Basque Institute of Work Safety is investigating the deaths, according to local media and the town has announced two days of official mourning for the two men.