Italian cable car plunges to the ground, killing at least 14 people; the young child is a single survivor


ROME (AP) – A cable car taking visitors to the top of a mountain over some of northern Italy’s most scenic lakes fell to the ground on Sunday, then hurtled down the slope, killing 14 people. The only survivor, a young child, was hospitalized in serious condition with broken bones, authorities said.

Six of the dead were Israeli citizens, including a family of four living in Italy, Israel’s foreign ministry said. It was not clear if the other couple were related.

The mayor of Stresa, where the incident occurred, said it looked like a cable had broken, causing the car’s fairing to hit a pylon and then fall to the ground. At that point, the car rolled over “two or three times before hitting trees,” Mayor Marcella Severino said. Some of those who died were thrown from the cabin.

The Italian government has announced a commission to investigate the disaster, which is likely to renew questions about the quality and safety of Italian transport infrastructure.

Images from the site showed the wrinkled car in a clearing of a thick patch of pine trees near the top of Mottarone Peak overlooking Lake Maggiore. The car was said to have fallen about 15 meters (50 feet), according to Italian media.

“It was a terrible and terrible scene,” Severino told Italy’s SkyTG24.

The dive on the Stresa-Mottarone line occurred about 100 meters before the last pylon, said Walter Milan, spokesman for the Italian Alpine Rescue Service.

As of Sunday evening, the death toll rose to 14 after the death of one of two children taken to Regina Margherita Children’s Hospital in Turin. The child died after several attempts to restart the heart and “there was nothing more we could do,” said hospital spokesman Pier Paolo Berra. The other young child, who arrived at the hospital conscious, remained in serious condition, authorities said.

Milan noted that the cable line was renovated in 2016 and only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns in Italy reduced travel and forced the suspension of many leisure activities. Milan suggested that many families would have flocked to the mountain on a sunny Sunday after months of restrictions.

The line is popular with tourists and locals alike to climb Mottarone, which reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks several scenic lakes and the surrounding Alps in the Italian region of Piedmont.

The mountain is home to a small amusement park, Alpyland, with roller coasters for children, and the area also has mountain biking and hiking trails.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered his condolences to the families of the victims “with a special thought for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Sunday’s tragedy appears to be the worst cable car disaster in Italy since 1998 when a low-flying US military plane cut the cable to a ski lift in Cavalese, in the Dolomites, killing 20 people.

Italian Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini announced a commission to examine the tragedy and said he had already requested data on maintenance work and inspections carried out on the line in the past. He planned to visit the site on Monday.

Although the cause has not been determined, the disaster was likely to raise questions about Italy’s transport infrastructure. In 2018, the Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed after years of neglect, killing 43 people.

In 2009, a gas freight train derailed at Viareggio station, near Lucca, and exploded, killing 32 people. The poorly maintained axles of the train were blamed.

President Sergio Mattarella, offering his condolences, called for “rigorous compliance with all safety standards” in transport.

Associated Press writer Joseph Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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