Parents Chase After Son, All 3 Perish in Volcano Crater

Tragedy at Solfatara
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2017 1:00 PM CDT
Parents, 11-Year-Old Die at Volcanic Crater in Italy
Rescuers stand on the site where three people reportedly died when they fell into a crater in a steamy volcanic field in Pozzuoli, near Naples, Italy, on Tuesday.   (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP)

A 7-year-old boy is the sole surviving member of a family that was wiped out in a horrific accident near Naples, Italy, on Tuesday. Reports conflict, but in general they agree that the Italian family's 11-year-old son crossed a protective barrier and entered an area of the Solfatara volcanic crater that's off-limits to tourists. His parents, said to be 42 and 45, went to retrieve him and their weight apparently caused a hole—some reports have it at 5 feet deep, others at nearly 10—to open. It's unclear what killed them, but the leading theories are gas fumes or burns. ANSA describes them as falling into a "pit of boiling-hot mud."

As the AP puts it, "The fields are scorching hot only a few inches below the surface." The area is well marked to explain that very thing, with signs warning in various languages against climbing the fences and cautioning that the soil temperatures and steam can register as high as 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The Local reports the area is home to 24 volcanic craters and says it's possible that recent rains made the ground more unstable. The BBC reports rescuers used chains to retrieve the bodies from a hole that can be seen in photos. The younger child didn't enter the restricted area and was being tended to by a psychologist. (An American died after falling into a volcano in Hawaii in July.)

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