Four Italians die trying to rescue each other from fumes produced by vat of fermenting wine

Police and firefighters at the scene of the accident in the hamlet of Paola
Police and firefighters at the scene of the accident in the hamlet of Paola

An Italian hamlet is reeling after four men from the same family died after inhaling toxic gases from a vat of homemade wine.

The relatives died one after the other in a cellar in Paola, in the province of Calabria, as they desperately tried to rescue the first man to succumb to the gases.

Paramedics were unable to revive Giacomo and Valerio Scofano, aged 70 and 50, as well as father and son Santino and Massimo Carnevale, aged 70 and 45.

It is not known which of them first lost consciousness while stirring the fermenting grape juice before transferring it into oak barrels.

The fermentation process gives off carbon dioxide fumes, which sink to the bottom of confined spaces and at concentrations above 10 per cent can cause people to pass out within a single minute.

The fumes are colourless and odourless, making them difficult to detect.

The cellar where the wine was fermenting
The cellar where the wine was fermenting

The family had gathered on Saturday to move the wine into the barrels they kept to drink from along with their meals over the year.

One man went down into the cellar to stir the wine,according to a statement from the Carabinieri, Italy’s military police force.

Another managed to cry for help but was found dead near the exit of the cellar. A 36-year-old daughter in law of one of the men also lost consciousness while attempting to intervene but was resuscitated by neighbors and eventually transported to a nearby hospital.

“The environment lacked sufficient air ventilation,” said the Paola prosecutor Pierpaolo Bruni, noting that an investigation was underway.

Mayor of Paola Roberto Perrotta told gathered media Saturday that the close-knit community was reeling with “enormous sorrow” over the tragic chain of events.