Three people — an 11-year-old boy and his parents — died after they fell into boiling mud in a volcanic crater in Pozzuoli, an Italian city not far from Naples.
The family was visiting Solfatara, a shallow volcanic crater frequented by tourists, on Tuesday when the boy wandered into a restricted area and slipped into a nearly 10-foot-deep pit, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. His father and mother fell into the hole trying to save him.
Another family member, a 7-year-old boy, was nearby and did not walk beyond the fenced-off area, authorities said. He was placed in the custody of social workers until his grandparents arrived.
Pozzuoli Mayor Vincenzo Figliolia voiced anguish at the tragedy.
“It's a moment of deep sadness for all of us,” he said in a Facebook statement.
The victims, 42-year-old Tiziana Zaramella, 45-year-old Massimiliano Carrer and their son Lorenzo were visiting from Meolo, a town in northern Italy more than 400 miles away, ANSA reported. Pictures showed crews carrying wooden coffins toward the victims’ bodies, which lay on the ground several feet from the pit.
It was not clear whether they were killed because of the hot mud or whether they were overcome by the sulfurous fumes that the dormant volcano emits. Heavy rains may have played a role in creating openings on the crater’s surface, according to the Associated Press.