The Stresa-Mottarone Cable Car takes tourists and locals alike across Lake Maggiore, almost 4,600 feet above sea level, to the top of Mottarone Mountain in 20 minutes.
“We are devastated, in pain,” Marcella Severino, mayor of Stresa, told RAI, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
The cable car was making its way up the mountain when the cabin fell more than 65 meters from the ground and rolled down the steep slopes several times before being stopped by trees, Severino said.
People walking nearby heard a loud whistle just before the crash, she said, adding that the crash was believed to have been caused by one of the cables breaking.
Italy’s Alpine Rescue Service said a call arrived just after noon, adding that the cable car was “crumpled” in the woods and two children had been taken by helicopter to a pediatric hospital in the nearby city of Turin.
Severino said some of the victims were found trapped inside the car, while others were thrown into the woods.
Coroners had started to identify the victims, including foreign nationals, she said, without giving further details.
The eldest of two children taken to hospital, who is believed to be between 9 and 10, has 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 no one had been in contact with the hospital for them, indicating that other family members could have been involved in the accident.
The youngest child, estimated to be 5 years old, was conscious upon arrival at the hospital and spoke Italian. He was undergoing surgery to stabilize several fractures.
La Valle said another person, previously believed to have been injured, was not actually taken to hospital.
‘Hard to believe’
The Stresa-Mottarone elevator had only recently reopened following the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
“It’s a terrible moment for me and for our community and I also think for all of Italy. Especially now that we are just starting to restart (after the pandemic), ”Severino said.
Mottarone Peak is popular among tourists because of its panoramic views of Lake Maggiore and its picturesque islands as well as the views of the surrounding Alps.
The cable car service opened in August 1970 after nearly three years of work to replace a cog railway, its website says.
The double cable system is divided into two sections, one between Stresa and Alpino and the other between Alpino and Mottarone. It consists of two cars – in alternating directions – each capable of carrying up to 40 passengers, he added.
Severino said major maintenance work, including changing cables, had been carried out in recent years.
“It is all hard to believe,” the mayor said.
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Alexander Smith)
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