Zoom Image

View of Lake Maggiore: Four people died in Italy's second-largest lake on Sunday

Photo: Matteo Bazzi / EPA

It is now known that 19 people were lucky in their misfortune. They survived on Sunday evening when a houseboat capsized on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, on which they were attending a birthday party. Four other participants in that party, however, are dead. "The bodies of four people have been recovered," a spokesman for the local fire department confirmed on Monday.

In strong winds, the boat capsized on Sunday around 19 p.m. at the southern end of the lake near the village of Sesto Calende. According to the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, the "very serious incident" on the lake was caused by a windstorm. The 16-meter-long boat was rented by tourists, Fontana said on Facebook.

Two helicopters, helpers from the coast guard, the fire brigade and divers were used from then on. Exactly how many people were on the boat was initially unclear on Monday. Five people who made it ashore in time were taken to clinics. None of them were seriously injured.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that one of the fatalities was a man from Israel. According to Italian media, the remaining victims were a woman and a man from Italy, as well as a Russian. According to media reports, this is said to be the partner of the boat owner and captain. Both lived on the houseboat and made it available for celebrations. As it was said, such excursions are very popular on Lake Maggiore. This is a popular holiday destination and the second largest lake in Italy.

For the time being, the last of the four victims had only been discovered and recovered by divers on Monday morning. Video footage showed Coast Guard and Carabinieri forces bringing a black plastic bag ashore over a jetty near Sesto Calende.

Why didn't the boat return?

The birthday party was reportedly with the houseboat in the evening about 150 meters from the shore. "Actually, it was a wonderful day yesterday," a local resident told reporters. "But we saw that a big thunderstorm was approaching from Milan."

Violent winds and strong, local precipitation then led to the boat capsizing and sinking rapidly, according to previous findings. Some passengers were able to swim ashore, others were rescued by other boats.

The public prosecutor's office is now investigating how it could have capsized and why the boat did not return to port. In any case, the province of Varese, where Sesto Calende is located, had already been hit by bad weather around 17 p.m. There were also delays at the nearby Milan Malpensa airport.