Daniel Martin, a member of the vineyard crew at Keuka Lake Vineyards, died in an accident on Monday. The 51-year old was pinned underneath a tractor, which he had been operating on the hill of the property.
“He will be greatly missed,” KLV owner Mel Goldman said in an email. “It is deeply shocking. I knew him quite well.”
Martin had worked for KLV for the past ten years, and was familiar with the vagaries of the property. Keuka Lake Vineyards is perched on some of the steepest vineyard sites in the region; it’s the kind of terrain that is helpful in growing high-quality fruit, but can be dangerous for workers.
It’s unclear what the exact circumstances were when Martin’s tractor overturned. Goldman said that Martin had been working alone and had just finished spraying. He was returning down a hill and apparently lost control of the vehicle at that point; police say he was found on the edge of a driveway. Emergency responders arrived within minutes of the accident but could not revive Martin.
The accident is a reminder that it is not simply a cliche to say that vineyard work can be precarious. Steep slopes are highly desirable for wineries. Working those slopes can involve difficult tasks, and some Finger Lakes sites are not accessible by machines. The challenging work helps foster a kind of family mentality among the crews in the region.
Despite the risks, accidents are rare, and certainly fatal accidents even moreso. Goldman indicated that Martin was a well regarded worker who would have been familiar with the equipment. By Wednesday night, comments and condolences were piling up on various forms of social media, indicative of the bond across the industry.