Waiter dies after tasting 12 samples of wine in Mumbai restaurant

Jan 22, 2016, 07:00 IST | Sadaguru Pandit

Doctors suspect an unusual chemical reaction may have caused the death at swanky Italian bar-and-restaurant in Khar; sommeliers stumped as cops await full forensic report and post-mortem

A 35-year-old employee of a well-known Italian bar-and-restaurant in Khar died on Wednesday evening immediately after participating in a wine-tasting session.

The incident happened during a wine tasting session at Yellow Bar All Day in Khar. File pic
The incident happened during a wine tasting session at Yellow Bar All Day in Khar. File pic

Pukhrimayum Akhtar Hussain, who was training to become a captain at the Yellow Bar All Day at Khar, died a few hours after participating in a wine-tasting workshop on Wednesday evening.

While a post-mortem is yet to be conducted due to pending panchnama reports, forensic experts said that, prima facie, the death could be due to poisoning from chemical reactions. Colleagues said Hussain had tasted around 10 different samples and had a full glass of wine after the workshop ended. The Khar police are investigating the case after registering an Accidental Death Report.

Pukhrimayum Akhtar Hussain was training to become a captain at the Yellow Bar All Day at Khar. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Pukhrimayum Akhtar Hussain was training to become a captain at the Yellow Bar All Day at Khar. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

In his statement to the Khar Police Station, another employee of the bar, Rohit Pandey, said Hussain, who is from Manipur, sampled some 10 wines during the workshop, which was from 4 pm to 6 pm.

The plush eatery is helmed by the former Mezzo Mezzo chef Davide Cananzi. He runs it with restaurateurs Ramona Narang and Nicky Bedi, who used to run the famous Yellow Tree Café in Bandra. It has among the most extensive bar and wine menus in the city.

Soon after the workshop, sources said Hussain was found at the gate of the restaurant in an inebriated state. The security personnel informed the managers, who asked Hussain to rest inside the bar. After sometime, they realised that he had become unconscious and was not waking up despite their repeated attempts. They rushed Hussain to Bhabha Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The body was then taken to Cooper Hospital for post-mortem.

“We have registered an ADR and investigations are going on. We are waiting for the forensic experts’ opinion,” Khar Senior Police Inspector Dattatray Bhargude told mid-day.

Forensic experts on the other hand, after accessing the statements of the bar employees, said that prima facie, it seemed like a case of poisoning due to chemical reaction. They said the exact cause of death will only be ascertained after a detailed chemical analysis. They are awaiting a go-ahead from the police, who are yet to complete the panchnama.

Waiter dies after wine-tasting session at Yellow Bar All Day

“According to the information provided to us, death might be the result of the chemical reaction caused by different kinds of wines that he tasted. We also need to find out if he had consumed any other food or medicine before the workshop,” a senior forensic expert told mid-day.

Nicky Bedi, co-partner at Yellow All Day, said none of the proprietors were present at the restaurant when the incident happened and that it was unfortunate.

“It was a session held for staffers,” said Bedi. “Each staffer would not have consumed more than a glass of wine each. The deceased, in his 20s, had joined the eatery a week before the incident. I have seen the CCTV footage. After the session was over, he picked up a glass of wine on a table and gulped it down, then went into the kitchen.”

Bedi said when he arrived at the restaurant at 7.30 pm to check on him, Hussain seemed fine.

“We allowed him to rest. At 9 pm, we called the doctor. The doctor arrived at 9.28 pm and tried to revive him, but pronounced him dead. It is really unfortunate,” Bedi said.

With inputs from Krutika Behrawala and Phorum Dalal

'Important to spit it out'

Sommelier Magandeep Singh said while there is no dietary restrictions to be followed before tasting wine, one should avoid all kinds of medicines, especially antibiotics. He said even that will not kill a person if they are just tasting wine and not consuming it.

Magandeep Singh

“Normally, at wine tasting competitions, we taste about 100-150 wines in one day and no one has ever died because of tasting wine,” Singh told mid-day. “Tasting means you spit it back. It’s important to spit it out because if I taste a lot of wine and take in 10 ml from every wine, after 30 wines I will be drunk and my senses are influenced.”

Singh said a person might accidentally take in one or two ml because it is stuck to your insides of the mouth.

“If he tasted 12 or 15 wines and even took two ml per wine in, that would just be 30 ml, which is lesser than a glass of wine and has only 12% alcohol as opposed to a vodka shot, which would have 40% of alcohol. It would be 1/4th of a vodka shot and no reason it would kill you,” said Singh, adding that he doesn’t think the wine is the culprit.

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