At least 14 people were killed on Sunday and one child has been left with serious injuries after a horror accident in which a mountain-top cable car plunged 65 feet to the ground in northern Italy.
The cable car was carrying passengers to the top of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region of the western Alps when it dropped just 1,000ft away from the station shortly after noon.
Italy’s Alpine rescue service said the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only reopened last month, after coronavirus lockdowns forced the closures of ski lifts across the country.
Stresa mayor Marcella Severino said engineers believe the accident near the 4,900ft summit was caused by one of the cables breaking, which sent the car careening until it hit a pylon and then fell to the ground. At that point, the car overturned ‘two or three times before hitting some trees’.
It is thought that 13 passengers were killed instantly, while two young children aged five and nine were airlifted to Turin’s Regina Margherita children’s hospital. Hospital spokesman Pier Paolo Berra said one of the children died after several attempts to restart his heart failed and ‘there was nothing more we could do’. The other child remains in serious condition with broken bones, authorities added.
Italian premier Mario Draghi voiced his condolences to the families of the victims, ‘with a special thought’ for the injured children, while transport minister Enrico Giovannini described the incident as a ‘terrible tragedy’.
The accident appears to be Italy’s worst cable car disaster since 1998, when a low-flying US military jet cut through the cable of a ski lift in Cavalese in the Dolomites, killing 20 people.
The Italian government announced a commission to investigate the disaster, which is likely to renew questions about the quality and safety of Italy’s transport infrastructure.
In 2018, 43 people died when the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed following years of neglect. In 2009, a freight train carrying gas derailed at the Viareggio station near Lucca and exploded, killing 32 people. Poorly maintained axels of the train were blamed.
The Mottarone cable car was opened in 1970. It reaches a height of 4,900 feet and takes tourists from the town of Stresa, to the top of the mountain, in 20 minutes.
Mount Mottarone is considered a ‘natural balcony’ and boasts panoramic views across the Po Valley to the Alps.
Seven lakes are visible from the summit, which is a 15 minute walk from the cable car station, they include Lake Maggiore, Italy’s second largest, Lake Orta and Lake Mergozzo.
The area became popular in the early 1900s when the area opened up for skiing and winter sports.
Since it has seen many people go to enjoy scenic walks, including the Mottarone Alpino Stressa route, a four hour walk from the top of Mottarone which is reached by cable car.
The accident may have been caused by a broken cable at the top of the system, according to ANSA news agency.