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Drayton’s Family Wines facing charges over deaths

Drayton's, founded in 1853, faces criminal proceedings over death of family winemaker and co-worker.

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Drayton’s Family Wines, following the death of leading Hunter Valley winemaker Trevor Drayton in 2008.  

Proceedings against the 160-year-old, Pokolbin-based, Australian wine group are being brought by WorkCover New South Wales, a government employment safety body.  

Trevor Drayton and co-worker Eddie Orgo were killed by an explosion after ethanol was ignited during welding work at the Drayton winery in January 2008. Assistant winemaker William Rikard-Bell was also severely burned and the accident prompted tributes from around the world.

At the time of the accident, Drayton’s father, Max, and two brothers, Greg and John, were the acting company directors.

‘WorkCover have commenced proceedings against Drayton’s Family Wines as a company,’ a source close to the Drayton family, and who wished to remain anonymous, told Decanter.com.

Contrary to suggestions in another media report, the source added that ‘there are no manslaughter charges and there was not any findings against any director’.

In a coroner’s report in 2011, deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon highlighted several safety lapses that likely contributed to the accident.

However, he did not recommend criminal or disciplinary proceedings. He also said the winery had ‘undertaken serious soul-searching about their safety cultures’ since the explosion.

The case against Drayton’s Family Wines is due for an initial hearing at a New South Wales district court on 25 February. WorkCover NSW declined to comment.

Additional reporting on coroner’s report by Chris Mercer.

Written by James Lawrence

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