The wreckage of a cable car is seen on the ground after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region, northern Italy, Sunday, May 23, 2022. A mountaintop cable car plunged to the ground in northern Italy on Sunday, killing at least five people and sending at least three more to the hospital, authorities said. (Vigili del Fuoco via AP)

Italian cable car plunges to the ground, killing at least 13

ROME (AP) — A cable car taking visitors to a mountaintop view of some of northern Italy’s most picturesque lakes plummeted to the ground Sunday and then tumbled down the slope, killing at least 13 people and sending two children to the hospital in serious condition, authorities said.

Stesa Mayor Marcella Severino said it appeared that a cable broke, sending the car careening until it hit a pilon 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.

Images from the site showed the crumpled 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.

The plunge on the the Stresa-Mottarone line happened about 100 meters (yards) before the final pilon, in a spot where the cables were particularly high off the ground, said Walter Milan, spokesman for Italy’s Alpine rescue service.

Milan noted that the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns in Italy curtailed travel and forced the suspension of many leisure activities. Milan suggested many families may have flocked to the mountain on a sunny Sunday after months of restrictions.

The line is popular with tourists and locals alike to scale Mottarone, which reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks several picturesque lakes and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region.

The mountain hosts a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster, and the area also has mountain bike paths and hiking trails.

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.

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.

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