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Accidents

German tourist killed in water-bus accident in Venice

A German tourist has been killed on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. A collision between a gondola and a larger water bus was the cause.

A 50-year-old German tourist was killed in Venice on Saturday when the gondola he was in with his family collided with a water bus or "vaporetto."

The water bus, one of many that carry the public around the city's canals, was at the Rialto bridge stop on the Grand Canal when the accident happened on Saturday. Police spokeswoman Erika Veronica Di Francesco said the vaporetto was docking and apparently didn't see the nearby gondola, which was carrying five members of a visiting German family.

The man has not been named. He was traveling with his wife and three children in a small private gondola, a vessel without an engine made for about six passengers and steered by a single oarsman. A 3-year-old girl who was also hurt in the crash, was taken to a hospital in nearby Padua.

"I am really sad after what has happened," Venice mayor Giorgio Orsoni said. He sent his condolences to the family and said he was convening a panel of experts to resolve Venice's traffic difficulties. "The problem of water traffic congestion, in high periods and in particular areas of the center, is real," Orsoni said in a statement.

Nicola Falconi, the head of Venice's gondolier's association, blamed the increased congestion on new vaporetto lines that have entered service, as well as private boats, primarily from hotels, clogging the Grand Canal.

Venice prosecutors opened a manslaughter investigation. They interrogated the gondolier and the water bus captain involved in the accident, impounded their vessels, and ordered the retrieval of footage from nearby closed-circuit cameras.

During the high summer, there are many vessels on the relatively narrow canals. The public water buses are quite large and can carry more than a hundred people. There are regular stops on both sides of the canal, and visibility from the water buses down to the smaller, flat-bottomed, black-painted gondolas can be limited.

Previous accidents in 2004 saw a family of Dutch tourists thrown into the canal, and, in 2011, four Spanish tourists fell in the water when their gondola was hit by the wake of a motorboat.

jm/mkg (AP, dpa, Reuters)