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In The Italian Cable Car Disaster, Investigators Are Looking At Possible Manslaughter

Updated May 24, 2021 at 12:32 PM ET

An Italian prosecutor says she is considering a number of possible crimes related to the cable car disaster that killed 14 people Sunday, including multiple manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.

Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi made the statement to local journalists Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The cable car was carrying passengers to the top of Mottarone mountain in northern Italy when it crashed. Among the dead were five members of one family — two grandparents, two parents and their toddler. The only surviving passenger is the couple's other child, a 5-year-old boy.

A separate investigation by Italy's transport ministry is focusing on mechanical failure. Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini said he has requested information about inspections and maintenance work on the aerial railway.

Early indications are that a cable pulling the aerial tram to the top of the mountain appeared to have snapped, causing the car to swing into a pylon before falling to the ground and rolling several times before hitting a tree line that ultimately stopped the car. Some of the passengers were thrown from the car, the AP reported. Two children were transported to a hospital, where one later died.

The cable car is a popular attraction in the quaint Italian town of Stresa, just over 50 miles northwest of Milan along the shore of Lake Maggiore. It carries passengers to the peak of Mottarone, nearly 5,000 feet up.

The cable car reportedly fell about 50 feet to the ground just shy of the summit. A photo shows the tramway crumpled up at the edge of a tree line with the lake behind it. "It was a terrible, terrible scene," Stresa Mayor Marcella Severino said.

Walter Milan, spokesperson for Italy's Alpine rescue service, said that the cable line was renovated in 2016 and that the attraction had just opened back up following closures during coronavirus lockdowns, the AP reported.

The cause of the accident has yet to be identified, but the disaster could raise questions about Italy's transportation infrastructure, the AP noted. A bridge in Genoa collapsed in 2018, killing 43 people. In 2009, a freight train carrying gas came off the tracks near Lucca, exploding and killing 32.

Sunday's tragedy seems to be the worst cable car accident since a low-flying American military jet in the Dolomites struck a ski lift cable in 1998. The aircraft cut through the line and killed 20 people, the AP said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.