By Ian Neubauer

The Australian wine industry is in mourning today after learning one of the men killed in a huge explosion at a Hunter Valley vineyard yesterday was president of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association, Trevor Drayton.

Trevor and a welding contractor were instantly killed when a massive explosion destroyed the main plant at Drayton’s Family Wines in Pokolbin. It is believed the explosion occurred when ethanol fumes from the vineyard’s distillery were accidentally ignited by a spark from a welder.

Assistant winemaker William Rikard-Bell was critically injured in the blast. A witness told reporters on the scene Rikard-Bell was thrown 20m into the air by the force of the explosion.

“He had run down on fire and jumped in the dam,” neighbour Damien Griffith told the Nine Network. “He was in a pretty bad way, he was in quite a lot of pain, he had a burnt face and skin coming off his arms.”

Rikard-Bell was airlifted by helicopter to John Hunter Hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body and was later transferred to the burns unit at Concord Hospital in Sydney. His condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.

Earlier reports that a second person had been critically injured in the blast and airlifted to hospital have proven to be false.

A photograph of Trevor’s distraught mother, Caroline Drayton, being consoled by NSW ambulance workers appeared on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper reported Caroline collapsed on the scene after learning about her son’s death.

Tributes for the deceased poured into from the industry and further afar. “Mr Drayton’s death is a great loss to the wine industry and the wider Hunter community,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told News Ltd.

Industry stalwart Bruce Tyrell said Trevor’s mates would ensure his label and legacy would not perish with the inferno. “If they need to make their wine somewhere else there’ll be plenty of us that will find room for them,” he told Macquarie Radio.

Details of funeral arrangements for the deceased are yet to be announced.

The Shout Team

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

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