Revisiting the Karlovac Brewery Incident

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Courtesy of Analox Sensor Technology

As a gas monitoring company, we have been made aware of many tragic incidents concerning gas leaks. One of the most obscure and tragic is the incident which happened at the former Karlovac Brewery in Karlovac, Croatia in 2007.

Karlovac Brewery (Karlovačka pivovara) was founded in 1854 and is one of Croatia’s most famous breweries, brewing national beer Karlovacko. In 2013 the brewery was renamed Heineken Croatia.

In February 2007 an elderly man was walking his dog near the brewery, when the dog died on the spot. The man went to revive his dog and fell into a coma. Although the man was hospitalised, he died a month later.

Coincidentally the man, Zdravko Martinović, was a former employee of the brewery.

After an investigation, it was found that incorrectly laid pipes carried carbon dioxide gas emitted by the brewery into the sewerage system and then into the nearby Grabica stream – records suggested that this had been happening since November 2006.

As carbon dioxide gas is denser than air and lies low to the ground, the dog would have been poisoned immediately, whilst Martinović would have succumbed to the gas when he went to the ground to try and revive his dog.

Carbon dioxide gas is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Although it occurs naturally in the atmosphere, increased levels of the gas can have serious health effects, from drowsiness and dizziness, to unconsciousness and death. The investigation found that nearby residents had also complained of health problems symptomatic of carbon dioxide poisoning.

Carbon dioxide has no taste or smell so can be hard to detect, which is why carbon dioxide monitors are essential in breweries.

Five high-ranking employees of the brewery were investigated for the incident, and the brewery was temporarily shut down by the Government.

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