By Ian Neubauer
An early morning explosion at a NSW winery owned by the President of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association is feared to have left two people dead and left at least two critically injured, the AAP news service reported.
The explosion occurred at 8.30am at Drayton’s Family Wines on Oakley Creek Road, Pokolbin, near Cessnock. It is believed the explosion occurred when fumes from the vineyard’s distillery were accidentally ignited by a welder.
A NSW Police spokesperson said at midday today they have been unable to confirm the reported fatalities.“The fire is still alight. So until it is extinguished and we have access to the site we will have no information on those poor people,” the spokesperson said.
A 27-year-old man suffering severe burns was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. Another individual suffering burns to 80 per cent of their body was airlifted to an undisclosed location.
Drayton’s is a 100 per cent family-owned vineyard operating in the Hunter since 1853. The vineyard’s most recent production includes Chardonnay, Chardonnay Verdelho, Shiraz and Shiraz Merlot wines. According to information posted on the winery’s website, the vineyard enjoyed good rains in September and near perfect spring conditions for flowering, fruit set and vine growth.
“Although [it is] early days in the winemaking process, the 2007 vintage will without doubt be recorded as one of the great vintages of the Hunter Valley,” wrote award-winning viticulturist Trevor Drayton, current president of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association.
Calls to Drayton’s Winery today went unanswered.
Theshout wishes to express deep condolences to the Drayton family and a speedy recovery to those injured in the blast.