At least 14 people, including five Israelis, died and a child was seriously injured on Sunday when a cable car linking Italy’s Lake Maggiore with a nearby mountain plunged to the ground, officials and rescuers said.
The Stresa-Mottarone cable car takes tourists and locals from the town on Lake Maggiore, almost 1,400 metres above sea level to the top of the Mottarone mountain in 20 minutes.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had been informed by Italian authorities that five of its nationals were among the dead and one Israeli was in a critical condition.
“We are devastated, in pain,” Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor told broadcaster RAI, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi voiced his condolences to the families of the victims.
The cable car was travelling up the mountain when the cabin plummeted some 20 metres to the ground and rolled down the steep slope several times before it was stopped by trees, Severino said.
People hiking nearby heard a loud hiss just before the crash, she said, adding that the accident was believed to have been caused by one of the cables breaking.
Severino said that some of the victims had been found trapped inside the car, with others thrown into the woods.
Coroners had started identifying the victims, who included foreign nationals, she said, without giving further details.
Italy’s alpine rescue service said a call had first come just after midday (1000 GMT), adding that the cable car was lying “crumpled” in the woods and two children were taken by helicopter to a paediatric hospital in the nearby city of Turin.
The elder of the two, who was believed to be between 9 and 10, died after suffering two cardiac arrests, the hospital said.
Director General Giovanni La Valle said the hospital did not have personal data for the two children and that nobody had been in contact with the hospital for them, indicating that other family members could have been involved in the accident.
The younger child, estimated to be 5 years old, was conscious on arrival and was undergoing surgery to stabilise multiple fractures, La Valle said.