A mountaintop cable car plunged to the ground in northern Italy on Sunday, killing at least 13 people. A young child was hospitalized in serious condition with broken bones, authorities said.
Stesa Mayor Marcella Severino said it appeared that a cable broke, sending 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,” she said. Some of those who died were thrown from the cabin.
A photo of the wreckage taken by Italy’s fire squad showed the crushed and crumpled remains of the cable car in a clearing of a thick patch of pine trees near the summit of the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore.
“It was a terrible, terrible scene,” Severino told Italy’s SkyTG24. She said that in addition to the two children, a third person was injured.
At that location, the cables of the ski lift were particularly high off the ground, said Walter Milan, spokesman for the Alpine rescue service. The cause has not been determined.
Milan noted that the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns forced the closures of ski lifts across Italy. Milan suggested many families may have flocked to the mountain on a sunny Sunday after months of restrictions.
Mottarone reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks the picturesque lake and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region. The mountain features a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster offering 360-degree views of the scenery.
Many Italian ski areas feature mountain bike paths and hiking trails that are popular in spring and summer.
Premier Mario Draghi offered his condolences to the families of the victims “with a particular thought about the seriously injured children and their families.”
It appeared to be Italy’s worst cable car disaster since 1998 when a low-flying U.S. military jet cut through the cable of a ski lift in Cavalese, in the Dolomites, killing 20 people.
Italy’s transport minister, Enrico Giovannini, was following the rescue effort, which involved deploying three helicopters to the mountainside. He announced a commission to look into the tragedy and said he had already requested data on the maintenance work and inspections done on the line in the past. He planned to visit the site Monday.
While the cause hasn’t been determined, it’s the latest episode to raise questions about the quality of Italy’s transport infrastructure. In 2018, the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed after years of neglect, killing 43 people.
In 2009, a freight train carrying gas derailed at the Viareggio station, near Lucca, and exploded, killing 32 people. Poorly maintained axles of the train were blamed.