A mountaintop cable car plunged to the ground in northern Italy, killing at least 14 people and seriously injuring a child, authorities said.
The Stresa-Mottarone cable car takes tourists and locals from the famous town of Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, up almost 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level to the top of the Mottarone mountain in 20 minutes.
“We are devastated, in pain,” Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor told national broadcaster RAI, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi voiced his condolences to the families of the victims.
The ministry of infrastructure said in a statement that the accident occurred around 12:30pm (10:30 GMT) on Sunday as the cabin was about 100 metres (328 feet) from the summit.
The cable car was travelling up the mountain when the cabin fell some 20 metres (66 feet) to the ground and rolled several times down the steep slopes 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.
Italy’s alpine rescue said 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.
Severino said that some of the victims had been found trapped inside the car, with others thrown out into the woods.
Coroners had started identifying the victims, who included foreign nationals, she said, without giving further details.
The eldest of the two children taken to hospital, who was believed to be between nine and 10, died after suffering two cardiac arrests, the hospital said
The youngest child, estimated to be five years old, was conscious upon his arrival at the hospital and spoke Italian. He was undergoing surgery to stabilise multiple fractures.
Images from the fire service showed debris from the cabin in a wooded area where a steep slope makes access difficult.
The Mottarone peak is popular among tourists because of its panoramic views on Lake Maggiore and its picturesque islands as well as the vista of the surrounding Alps.
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 is split into two sections, just more than 2km (1.2 miles) between Stresa and Alpino and another 3km (1.9 miles) between Alpino and Mottarone.
According to authorities, the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns forced the closures of ski lifts across Italy.