A Italian couple and their 11-year-old son died Tuesday by falling into a volcanic crater near Naples, according to the management of the park they were visiting. The family was walking at the Solfatara, one of the main craters of the Phlegrean Fields, in the northwest of the Bay of Naples.
“We’re still trying to figure out what happened. They broke through the security barriers and fell into a hole, “a park official told AFP.
According to the Italian press, the child first crossed the barriers and fell. The father, then the mother, tried to go and help him. The hole was shallow and it is possible that they were all asphyxiated by gas fumes.
An autopsy must be performed, but it is likely that the victims died asphyxiated. The volcanic crater of the Solfatare, the last eruption of which dates back to the 16th century, emits several hundred tons of steam and carbon dioxide daily. It is famous for its fumaroles. The Romans thought that it marked the entrance of the Underworld.
The 7-year-old brother, who remains behind the barriers, is unscathed but in shock. He was taken into custody by the rescuers. “I saw a frightened child running, I did not know I was facing the worst tragedy of my life,” an eye witness told The Sun.
“I was at the Solfatara for work, along with other visitors we realised that something had happened and we approached the crater – still confessed the witness – I did not imagine what I would see,” said a second man who witnessed the tragedy. “They pulled out two bodies, then pulled us away. I continue to think about that family and that poor baby crying and asking for help,” he said.
According to an Italian vulcanologist, quoted by La Republicca [article in Italian], the precipitation of the last days could have weakened the soil, mainly consisting of ash and sulfur. A sinkhole would have formed, which would have collapsed under the weight of the child.
No similar accidents had ever been recorded on the site. The latter was closed to the public. The mayor of the city, Vincenzo Figliolia paid tribute to the relatives of the victims.