An atmosphere of grief and mourning gripped the beautiful northern region of Italy on Sunday, May 23, when a cable car connecting Lake Maggiore to a nearby mountain plunged to the ground, killing at least 14 people and causing serious injury to a child.
The casualties included not only Italians but also foreign nationals. Some victims were found trapped in the cable car, and others were thrown out into the woods.
In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, Israel’s ambassador to Rome, Dror Eydar, regretfully informed listeners that there had been 5 unidentified Israeli citizens counted among those who lost their lives, and they are all members of the same family consisting of 3 generations of grandparents, two parents and one of their children.
Two children, estimated to be 9 and 5 years old, were seriously injured and taken to a children’s hospital in Turin. However, the ill-fated 9-year-old died after doctors tried their best to revive him, according to hospital spokesman Pier Paolo Berra.
The remaining 5-year-old child able to speak Italian was taken to the hospital in a state of consciousness despite severe head and abdominal injuries and broken legs. He had been undergoing surgery.
After many months of suspension due to the COVID – 19 epidemic, the cable car service had only just resumed operation less than a month ago, on April 24th. It was a sunny Sunday for visitors to enjoy the picturesque scenery from the top of Mottarone to Lake Maggiore, the islands, and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region.
But unfortunately, a fateful cable car ride carrying 15 people broke a cable just as the car was completing the 20-minute journey from the Lido di Stresa square on Lake Maggiore to Mottarone station, 4,891 feet above sea level at the top of the mountain.
The cable snapped 984 feet from the mountain’s summit. According to local media ANSA, the cable car then crashed into a densely forested area with no easy access to the track.
People hiking nearby heard a loud hiss just before the crash.
Emergency services posted photos of the wreckage, which show the cable car crashed on the ground in what appears to be a clearing among pine trees with a view of the lake.
Italy’s alpine rescue said the cable car was lying “crumpled” in the woods.
The Italian government established a commission to investigate the tragedy, which is likely to reignite debate about the efficiency and protection of Italy’s transportation system.
President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi shared their profound grief, expressing condolences to the victims’ families, regional, and EU leaders expressed their sadness and shock.
“I learned with deep sorrow the news of the tragic accident of the Stresa-Mottarone cable car. I express the condolences on behalf of the whole government to the families of the victims, with a special thought for the children who were seriously injured and their families,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
European Council President Charles Michel offered his condolences in a post on Twitter, saying, “Europe is mourning with you,” while European Parliament President David Sassoli said in his own post that “we must get clarity immediately on the cause of this absurd tragedy.”
This tourist mountain Mottarone hosts a small amusement park, Playland, that has a children’s roller coaster, and also has mountain bike paths and hiking trails.
The cable car service first opened in August 1970 after almost three years of work to replace a cog railway, its website said.
The dual cable system was split into two sections, just over two kilometers between Stresa and Alpino and another three kilometers between Alpino and Mottarone. It consists of two cars—in alternate directions—with each one carrying up to 40 passengers.