By Ian Neubauer

The Draytons have this week begun picking up the pieces of their shattered lives after a massive explosion on Thursday left two dead and another critically injured with burns to at least 65 per cent of his body.

The deceased is believed to be winemaking icon Trevor Drayton and an unidentified contractor who was reportedly operating a welder at the time of the explosion. The injured man has been identified as William Rikard-Bell, 27, assistant winemaker at the Drayton’s Family Wines in the Hunter Valley.

A witness told reporters Rikard-Bell was thrown 20m into the air by the force of the explosion. He then ran into a dam where he remained until emergency service personnel arrived on the scene and airlifted him to hospital.

Rikard-Bell is in a stable condition at the burns unit at Concord Hospital in Sydney where he is undergoing his first skin graft today. However, the results of the procedure cannot be guaranteed as burn patients often suffer a high risk of infection.

“He is scheduled for surgery, which will be the first of several operations,” Rikard-Bell’s sister, Jocelyn, told News Ltd. “If he gets through this one, there will be more.”

Meanwhile in the Hunter, the local winemaking community is pooling its assets and skills to ensure the Drayton’s latest vintage is delivered to market. An ongoing police investigation coupled with damage from the blast will likely prevent the Draytons from getting their plant back online this year.

News outlets reported over the weekend that a group of neighbouring winemakers had met with John Drayton—brother of the deceased—to offer the grieving family assistance with the processing of their grapes.

“People in the area will do all they can do assist the Drayton family in their processing of this vintage,” fourth generation Hunter Valley winemaker Keith Tulloch told AAP. “It is simply a heartfelt belief that the community will pull together and we’ll assist the Drayton family in any possible way that we can.”

John Drayton issued a statement thanking emergency service personnel and the community for their support. The family also offered condolences to the family of the second man killed in the blast. “We are also very conscious of the loss of another life in this tragedy, and my family’s thoughts are with his loved ones,” he said.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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