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14 Die As Italy Cable Car Plummets

February 3, 1998

TRENTO, Italy (AP) _ A U.S. Marine plane on a training flight severed a cable car line Tuesday, and 14 people plunged to their death, U.S. military and Italian rescue officials said.

The accident occurred at a ski resort in the Val di Fassa area of the Dolomite Mountains near Trento. The cable car, was traveling from the town of Cavalese to the top of Cermis mountain, the site of a popular ski resort.

Thirteen skiiers and the car’s operator were killed when it fell 240-300 feet, said police Officer Robert Cavada in Cavalese.

Alpine rescue teams and search helicopters went to the scene. Passengers were evacuated from the line’s other cable car, which was on its way down and remained suspended, police said.

RAI state television footage showed the crushed wreckage of the yellow cable car resting on the snow. The cable trailed off.

The plane was an EA-6B Marine Prowler, stationed at the U.S. air base in Aviano, about 60 miles east of the scene of the accident, said Senior Airman Monte Volk, a spokesman at the base.

Volk said the plane was on a ``low-level training mission″ when the accident occured at 3:15 p.m. He said it was unclear what caused the accident.

Skies were clear, Italian police said.

The plane returned safely and the pilot was unhurt, though the aircraft suffered minor, unspecified damage, Volk said. The EA-6B is a surveillance craft and carries a crew of four.

The cabin had just begun its ascent from the base at Cavalese, at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, and was heading toward a mid-station when it fell, said Alessia Dezugliana, an employee of the Alpe Cermis ski area. The cable car’s destination sits at an altitude of 6,000 feet.

An accident at the same cable car line in March 1976 killed 42 people. Blame for that accident was laid on the suspension of an automatic safety system.

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