The shore was in sight, and perhaps that’s why the birthday party felt safe on Lake Maggiore, even when the sky was clouding over and the wind was picking up. However, the authorities must now investigate why the captain did not head for the bank in time despite the storm warning, although according to eyewitness reports the storm could already be seen and heard from the east.
Four people died in a boat accident on Italy’s second largest lake on Sunday evening. They had celebrated like about 20 other people when a storm blew up around 7 p.m. and strong gusts of wind caused their rented houseboat to capsize. The accident happened in front of the municipality of Lisanza, a district of Sesto Calende in the very south of Italy’s second largest lake.
The boat immediately sank to a depth of 15 meters, most of the guests were picked up by other boats in the rain or were able to swim to the shore 150 meters away. A man and a woman from Italy, a Russian woman and a man from Israel died. This was announced by the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Busto Arsizio near Milan, as reported by the Ansa news agency. The last of the four victims was only discovered and recovered by divers on Monday morning.
The Coast Guard and Fire Department were with boats, a helicopter and divers on duty. Video footage showed Coast Guard and Carabinieri forces bringing a black plastic bag ashore over a jetty near Sesto Calende.
According to media reports, the Russian woman who died was the partner of the boat owner and captain. Both lived on the houseboat and made it available for celebrations. According to Italian media reports, such excursions on Lake Maggiore are said to be very popular. Prosecutors are investigating how the boat capsized and why it did not return to port.
The province of Varese, in which Sesto Calende is located, was already hit by bad weather around 5 p.m. – so there were delays at the nearby Milan-Malpensa airport. The newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted from interviews with rescued passengersafter which the boat suddenly overturned and capsized.
According to the President of the Region of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, the “very serious incident” was triggered by a “tornoon”, occasionally there was also talk of a “tornado”. This is technically exaggerated, weather experts prefer to speak of gusts of thunderstorms.
It is true, however, that a normal storm should not normally capsize a 16 meter boat. Rather, it was probably a single gust of wind that shot out of a thunderstorm at more than 100 kilometers an hour.
Such sudden events cannot be predicted, but the thunderstorms that fuel them can. According to meteorologists, the weather models had also predicted a violent storm for Lake Maggiore on Sunday evening.