Family Dies After Falling Into Volcanic Crater In Italy (Photos)

Family Dies After Falling Into Volcanic Crater In Italy (Photos) Promo Image

Three members of an Italian family have died after the ground gave way in a volcanic crater near Naples, Italy.  One of the family's children had reportedly walked into a blocked-off area when the event occurred.

The Sun reports that the three victims were 45-year-old Massimiliano Carrer, 42-year-old Tiziana Zaramella and 11-year-old Lorenzo.  The couple's 7-year-old son was also with them at the time, but managed to escape and is unharmed.

The family -- who was from an area of Italy near Venice -- had been visiting Solfatara crater at Pozzuoli in the popular and volcanically-active area of Campi Flegrei.

Reuters reports that the family died near a gaseous opening known as Bocca Grande, or Big Mouth, which the ancient Romans dubbed "the home of the God of fire."

According to the BBC, the area where the family died is known for having quicksand.  The ground is prone to crumbling.

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The crater is believed to have opened up when Carrer ran to retrieve Lorenzo.  Zaramella followed, and the three soon fell into a boiling pit of mud.  It is possible that the family lost consciousness from inhaling poisonous gases before they perished.

Emergency crews responded within minutes, The Sun reports.

"I saw a child run crying," said eyewitness Diego Vitagliano, who works at the park. "I did not think I was facing the worst tragedy of my life. 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."

Though medical examiners have yet to conduct an autopsy, Reuters reports that firemen on the scene said the family appears to have died from asphyxia after inhaling volcanic fumes.  They cannot offer a precise answer as to why the ground fell through.

"Either there was a small explosion, or the ground simply gave way from their weight, and they fell into this hole," said fire brigade spokesman Laura Cari said. "It was inside a fenced-off area."

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Reuters reports that the 7-year-old was taken to a bar near the entrance of the park following the event.

Armando Guerriero, the bar's owner, said that the boy was repeatedly asking for his family as he tried to calm him.  The boy was later taken to social workers and a psychologist and will soon be given to his grandparents.

"I'm upset about what happened inside the Solfatara volcano," said local Mayor Vincenzo Figliolia, BBC reports. "I express my closeness from the community of Pozzuoli to the family of the victims."

The Solfatara crater is said to have formed around 4,000 years ago and last erupted in 1198.  It is now common among tourists and is considered a dormant volcano, though it still emits jets of steam filled with hydrogen sulfide.  

Reuters reports that the vents can reach up to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sources: Reuters via MSN, BBC, The Sun / Featured Image: Max Pixel / Embedded Images: EPA via The Sun

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