Coroner: Medical issue led to Healdsburg winery worker’s death

The death was deemed an accident, investigators said.|

Complications of alcoholic cirrhosis, an advanced stage of liver disease, led to the death of a Healdsburg winery worker who was found partially submerged in a grape fermentation tank in October, Sonoma County officials say.

Salvador Plaza Centeno, 61, was working at Dry Creek Vineyard on Oct. 12 when he “collapsed while on top of the fermentation tank,” which was in its seventh or eight day of fermentation, according to a Dec. 2 Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office death investigation summary report.

Plaza Centeno, a Windsor resident, was found with a third of his body face down in the tank, the report said. Paramedics went to the winery and attempted to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The death was deemed an accident, investigators said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county’s coroner’s unit, additionally identified possible suffocation due to a lack of oxygen in the fermentation tank as a contributing factor to the death.

The air inside winery fermentation tanks can be deadly when such gases as carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide have displaced oxygen, a 2014 hazard alert from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health said.

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or a build up of plaque in the arteries that can limit the amount of oxygen-rich blood that travels in the body, was also listed as a contributing factor in the report.

Plaza Centeno’s family declined to comment about the coroner’s report. In an emailed statement, Sara Rathbun, the director of marketing and communications for Dry Creek Vineyard, wrote that the winery had received a copy of the coroner’s report.

She underscored that the Sheriff’s Office found Plaza Centeno had died because of a health issue unrelated from his job.

“We are deeply saddened and we remain heartbroken as we lost a valued co-worker and our good friend,” Rathbun said.

An investigation by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the agency that investigates workplace deaths and injuries for possible violations in safety policies and procedures, remained open as of Monday, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration website.

The agency has six months to issue a citation against Dry Creek Vineyard if investigators determine a violation occurred.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   


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