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Cable Car In Northern Italy Falls To The Ground Killing 14 People

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In northern Italy, a cable car line was designed to carry people through the air over majestic woods and up the side of a mountain. On Sunday, people were enjoying the scenery from inside one of those cars when it crashed to the ground. Of 15 passengers, one survived. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The cable car crash occurred as Italians were returning to normal life after months of COVID-19 restrictions. The cableway links Lake Maggiore and the peak of Mount Mottarone just under 5,000 feet high. Stefano Giacchetta told a TV reporter that on that bright, sunny morning, he and his girlfriend were walking on a nearby path.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEFANO GIACCHETTA: (Speaking Italian).

POGGIOLI: "Suddenly, we heard a strange noise," said Giacchetta, "a hiss like a giant rope snapping, and five seconds later, another loud noise like a big crash." TV images showed a crumpled cable car in a clearing of the woods which overlook Lake Maggiore and the town of Stresa. Mayor Marcella Severino said the entire town is devastated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCELLA SEVERINO: (Speaking Italian).

POGGIOLI: "The cable car was reaching the peak," said Severino, "when it suddenly bounced backwards, hit a pylon, plunged to the ground and rolled down the steep slope before it was stopped by the trees." There had been 15 passengers in the cable car. Some victims were found trapped inside, others thrown out in the woods. The accident appears to be Italy's worst cableway disaster since 1998, when a low-flying U.S. military jet cut through a ski lift cable in the Dolomites, killing 20 people. The Italian government has announced a commission to investigate the tragedy and requested data on the cableway's maintenance and past inspections. While the cause of Sunday's disaster is not yet known, it sparks memories of the 2018 collapse of a bridge in Genoa after years of neglect that killed 43 people and a 2009 freight train explosion that killed 32. The cause - poor train maintenance. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF FEDERICO ALBANESE'S "THE ROOM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.