Cheesemaker Dies in Avalanche of 25,000 Wheels of Grana Padano
Giacomo Chiapparini, 74, was killed by what he loved most: cheese.
Cheesemaking might not seem like a dangerous or risky profession. However, like any other job, there are dangers at the workplace. This week in Italy, a 74-year-old cheesemaker experienced a workplace fatality when 25,000 wheels of Grana Padano fell on top of him. Here is what you need to know about the tragic death.
Giacomo Chiapparini, 74, was a cheesemaker in Romano di Lombardia. He specialized in Grano Padano, which he made at his dairy farm.
On Sunday evening, Chiapparini went to check on his cheese wheels, stacked 15 high on ten-meter shelves. Each shelf reportedly holds hundreds of wheels, which age to perfection. Bortolo Ghislotti, a friend and neighbor of the victim's, said Chiapparini and his son Tiziano, 50, responded to an alarm that went off in the warehouse of a machine that cleans the cheese wheels from the mold. "These machines clean and rotate the wheels, so when they find them even slightly out of place, they send a warning," Ghislotti said. "It's a common problem. So Giacomo and his son went there to adjust the wheels."
They fixed the problem, and his son walked out of the warehouse. He was alone and restarted the machine. "Tiziano told me he heard a massive noise. He turned around and saw his father buried under thousands of cheese wheels. He knows that if he got out seconds later, he would be dead, too," the friend said.
Investigators believe one of the shelves tipped, knocking the other shelves down, with all the cheese wheels falling on top of Chiapparini. According to neighbors, the sound was like "a clap of thunder." Once rescuers arrived, they spend several hours searching for the elderly cheesemaker and had to use sniffer dogs and 21 firefighters.
"He was a great worker and had built his farm up from nothing," one neighbor told the local newspaper, Il Giorno. According to reports, he produced 15,000 wheels of cheese per year from his herd of cows, aging each wheel for 12 to 70 months, with each wheel worth hundreds of euros. He founded his factory in the 1970s.
Another neighbor described Chiapparini as "very supportive… and generous" to the Italian media and revealed that he lost a child decades ago.