12 dead and two children in hospital after cable car plunges in Italy

(AP) - Twelve people have been killed and two children are being treated in hospital after a cable car taking visitors to a mountaintop view of lakes in northern Italy plunged to the ground.

A photo of the wreckage taken by Italy’s fire department showed the crushed remains of the cable car in a clearing among a thick patch of pine trees near the summit of the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore.

At that location, about 100m before the final pylon, the cables of the lift were particularly high off the ground, said Walter Milan, spokesman for the Alpine rescue service. The cause has not been determined.

He said the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns forced the closures of ski lifts across Italy.

STRESA, ITALY - MAY 23: In this handout photo provided by the Italian state police, emergency workers surround the wreckage of a cable car that fell from the Stresa-Alpine-Mottarone line on May 23, 2021 in Stresa, Italy. The accident happened on a service that takes passengers from the resort town Stresa, up Mottarone mountain, in the Piedmont region. Italian news outlets reported that 11 people had been riding in the cable car before it fell, and officials said that two children were taken from the accident site to a hospital in Turin. (Handout photo by the Italian State Police via Getty Images)
STRESA, ITALY - MAY 23: In this handout photo provided by the Italian state police, emergency workers surround the wreckage of a cable car that fell from the Stresa-Alpine-Mottarone line on May 23, 2021 in Stresa, Italy. The accident happened on a service that takes passengers from the resort town Stresa, up Mottarone mountain, in the Piedmont region. Italian news outlets reported that 11 people had been riding in the cable car before it fell, and officials said that two children were taken from the accident site to a hospital in Turin. (Handout photo by the Italian State Police via Getty Images)

Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day in the area, and Mr Milan said that many families were taking advantage of the weather to enjoy a day out after months of lockdown.

Italy only reopened a few weeks ago, allowing travel between regions after a winter of Covid-19 restrictions.

Mottarone reaches a height of 1,491m (4,900ft) and overlooks several picturesque lakes and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region.

Mr Milan said a total of 11 people were in the cable car at the time. The two children were in a serious condition and were taken to a Turin hospital.

Italian premier Mario Draghi offered his condolences to the families of the victims “with a particular thought about the seriously injured children and their families”.

Nine killed in Italy cable car plunge
Nine killed in Italy cable car plunge

The trip up the mountain from the base at the lake features a cable car to get up halfway and then a chairlift to reach a small amusement park, Alpyland, further up that has a children’s rollercoaster offering 360-degree views of the scenery.

The site offers mountain bike paths and hiking trails, as is common for many Italian mountain areas that are popular with tourists and locals in spring and summer.

The Stresa-Mottarone cable car line advertises a panoramic, 20-minute trip up the mountain, offering a view of seven lakes at the peak.

It appeared 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.

Italy’s transport minister, Enrico Giovannini, was following the rescue effort, which involved the deployment of three helicopters to the mountainside.

It is the latest incident 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.