Italy cable car witnesses describe horror when tumbled 500m down mountain killing 14 after it ‘accelerated backwards’

A CABLE car accelerated backwards before it plummeted 500 metres down an Italian mountain side, witnesses have said.

The tragedy has claimed the lives of 14 people, including a family of five, after the gondola fell near a mountain summit.

A huge rescue mission was launched following Sunday morning's horror accident, in Mottarone, northern Italy.

Local mayor Marcella Severino recalled witnesses descriptions of what they saw unfold.

"Some were killed inside, while others were thrown from the car. It appears the cable gave way, and walkers saw it happen.

"They heard a loud bang and saw the cable car just before the summit and then it accelerated backwards, struck a support pillar and fell.

"Where it hit the ground is a remote spot, it's on the edge of some woods, and the witnesses said it rolled three times before stopping against some trees.

"The victims have all been identified and it would appear that some are foreign."

She later told La Repubblica that witnesses also told her they heard "two crazy bangs" as the car crashed into trees.

The paper also reports that rescuers said the car rolled 500metres down the mountain.

Heartbreaking details about those who died are now beginning to emerge.

A boy from Israel aged five is the only member of his family to survive.

Eitan Biran's father Amit Biran, 30, and his 26-year-old wife Tal Peleg-Biran died along with their other son Tom Biran, aged two, and her grandparents in the tragedy.

The family lived in northern Italy, and her grandparents Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen, who were aged 71 and 81, were visiting from Tel Aviv.

A doctor sent a last message to her sister to say she was boarding a cable car in northern Italy – an hour before it plunged 20 metres to the ground, killing 14.

Roberta Pistolato, a doctor working on the frontline of Italy's battle against Covid, died in the tragedy as she celebrated her 40th birthday with her boyfriend Angelo Gasparro, 45.

Shortly before the horror, believed to have happened when a cable snapped near the summit of a 4,900ft mountain in Mottarone, Ms Pistolato texted her sister: "We're getting on the cable car."

Vittorio Zorloni, 55, and his 37-year-old partner Elisabetta Personini were killed along with and their five-year-old son Mattia.

The couple, who were due to get married next month, were killed instantly when the car hit the ground and their son died in hospital in Turin.

The accident also claimed the lives of Serena Cosetino, 27, a scientific researcher, and her 30-year-old boyfriend Mohammed Reza Shahisavandi, an Iranian student, who also worked in a bar in Rome.

Engaged couple Silvia Malnati 27, and Alessandro Merlo, 29, were also killed.

Images of the tragedy show the crushed and crumpled remains of the cable car in a clearing of a thick patch of pine trees.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the woodland, as well as the steep slope.

A fire engine rushing to the scene of the horror overturned, although no one inside was injured.

Rescuer Walter Milan told Italy's SkyTG24 said the cable car collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region.

"The cable car fell from a relatively high point and it fell into wooded terrain," he said.

A witness told MailOnline: "It was a very steep drop, so the cable car tumbled for a while before stopping against some trees. 

"The police are at the scene of the incident and are trying to identify the people. It is a devastating morning for all of us."

The cable line closed in 2014 for a €4.4 million renovation, opening against in 2016.

However, it then shut as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, which forced the closures of ski lifts across Italy. It reopened again less than a month ago, on April 24.

The service first began running in August 1970 and the journey takes 20 minutes.

Mountain rescuers said this afternoon: "Serious accident on the Stresa- Mottarone cable car.

"Alpine rescue and other rescue teams on site. Two helicopter ambulances intervened."

Italian minister Enrico Giovannini said: "A terrible tragedy.

"We are trying to understand what has happened, but it is a truly terrible tragedy."

Mottarone reaches a height of 4,900 feet and overlooks a picturesque lake.

The mountain features a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster offering 360-degree views of the scenery.

Many Italian ski areas feature mountain bike paths and hiking trails that are popular in spring and summer.

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