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Employee’s death at winery near Healdsburg spurs workplace investigation

California Industrial Relations officials are investigating the workplace death of an employee at a winery north of Healdsburg on Tuesday.

The employee, identified by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office as Salvador Plaza-Centeno, 61, of Windsor, died while working at Dry Creek Vineyard on Lambert Bridge Road, officials said.

Plaza-Centeno was reportedly found in a fermentation tank at the winery, according to Frank Polizzi, a spokesman for the Department of Industrial Relations. He said the information came from an unnamed source who reported the incident to the department’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Sara Rathbun, a spokeswoman for Dry Creek Vineyard, disputed the claim that Plaza-Centeno was found inside a tank. She said he was hunched over a tank “performing a routine procedure” when co-workers noticed he was having a medical emergency.

In response, Polizzi said “Cal/OSHA receives limited information from an initial report. Now they are looking into exactly how the incident occurred.”

The incident was reported to the Northern Sonoma County Fire District about 2 p.m. as “someone having difficulty breathing,” said Chief Marshall Tuberville.

Paramedics gave the man CPR, Tuberville said. He said the reason for the man’s death was unknown.

Dry Creek Vineyard, which is one of the most well-known family-owned wineries in Sonoma County, sits at the heart of the Dry Creek Valley. The winery was started almost 50 years ago by David Stare and is now operated by his daughter, Kim Stare Wallace. It has been a pioneer for popularizing wines from northern Sonoma County such as sauvignon blanc and zinfandel.

The winery in a statement said it was “deeply saddened” by Plaza-Centeno’s death.

“He was a wonderful person, a hard worker and a personal friend to many of us,” the statement read.

But the winery also added that “based on our understanding, we strongly believe this was not work-related.”

“We are performing analysis in conjunction with the appropriate agencies and ask that the privacy of his family is respected at this time,” the winery added.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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