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Winemaker dies in vineyard blast

Published:  23 July, 2008

AUSTRALIA: A Hunter Valley wine dynasty has been devastated by a massive explosion that tore through their operation, killing owner and chief winemaker Trevor Drayton and another man, and leaving a third man fighting for his life.

Tributes for Drayton, 52, flooded in from fellow winemakers, state and federal politicians, and friends.

Close friend and fellow winemaker Bruce Tyrrell made an emotional promise to ensure his mate's label and legacy would live on.

"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.

Another winemaker, Keith Tulloch of Keith Tulloch Wines, said his lifelong friend had been one of the industry's leading figures.

"In all fairness, he could only be described as an iconic Hunter Valley winer," Tulloch told the Australian media.

"His family started winemaking in the 1850s and that certainly makes them one of the real pioneers."

Tulloch said ethanol fumes were understood to have been ignited by a spark from a welder, triggering the fatal blast.

However, fire authorities are yet to determine the cause of the blast.

Police Superintendent Des Organ said the casualties could have been higher if the winery had been open to the public at the time of the blast.

Max Drayton and his sons John, Trevor and Greg operated Drayton's Family Wines.

In 2003, Max Drayton was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his contribution to the wine industry.