Update: Italy investigates cause of cable car accident

Image from Italian Fire and Rescue Service shows Rescuers at work at the area of the cable car accident, near Lake Maggiore, northern Italy, 23 May 2021
The service carried passengers up the Mottarone mountain from the resort town of Stresa

Italy has launched an investigation into the cause of Sunday’s cable car accident that left 14 people dead.

The car plunged 20m (65ft) into the side of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

Thirteen people died at the scene including a two year old child. Two other children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin but the older child later died. Five Israeli nationals were among the dead, Israel’s foreign ministry says. On Monday, the crumpled remains of the cable car were sealed off and technicians prepared to examine the wreckage.

Prosecutors in Milan said they had opened an investigation into involuntary homicide and negligence. Investigators said they had also seized the operating company’s technical and maintenance documentation. A lawyer for the company, Ferrovie del Mottarone, said maintenance and checks had been carried out regularly, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

The cables were not due to be replaced until 2029, the newspaper added. “Everything will be subject to technical checks in the coming days”, said local public prosecutor Olimpia Bossi. “We are carrying out investigations and technical checks.”

Image from Italian Fire and Rescue Service shows Rescuers at work at the area of the cable car accident, near Lake Maggiore, northern Italy, 23 May 2021
The cable car smashed into trees as it fell down the mountain

Initial reports said the towing cable failed at about 12:30 pm (10:30 GMT) as the gondola neared the end of its 20 minute journey to the top of the mountain from the resort town of Stresa. Nearby hikers heard a loud hiss before it crashed to the ground and rolled downhill into trees.

“The others [cables] are intact, but it is too early to say what happened from a technical point of view,” local police commander Lt Col Giorgio Santacroce said, according to Ansa news agency. “It will be necessary to understand why the safety devices have not been triggered, which should keep the cabin anchored,” he added. Marcella Severino, the mayor of Stresa, said the cable car “began to go backwards (and) probably hit a pylon”.

The occupants of the cable car were from five families, Ansa reported. Three lived in Lombardy, one in Emilia-Romagna and one in Calabria. One family, who lived in Pavia, Lombardy, was of Israeli origin. The five-year-old in hospital who suffered serious head and leg injuries, is an Israeli national, officials said.

Another of the victims was identified as a 23-year-old born in Iran who lived in Damiante, Calabria.

The service originally opened in 1970 and was closed for maintenance between 2014 and 2016, local media reported. It recently reopened following the lifting of coronavirus measures and numbers inside the gondolas were restricted. Each cable car can usually hold about 35 passengers.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the crash as a “tragic accident” and said he was receiving updates from local and national officials. “I express the condolences of the whole government to the families of the victims, with a special thought for the seriously injured children and their families,” he said in a statement.

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