Students fight for life after chimney plunge

Two students had to be rescued by fire services after falling 30 metres down a chimney at the the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts on Sunday night.

Students fight for life after chimney plunge
The Düsseldorf Kunstakademie (Academy of Arts). Photo: DPA

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported that the pair, a young woman and a young man, fell down a 30-metre chimney at about 3 am.

The fall took the couple from the roof all the way down to the cellars of the 18th Century mansion.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and were able to talk to the pair, who were at the base of the shaft, as they entered from entrances at both the top and bottom to come to their rescue.

The rescue workers were unable to give the students first aid on the scene as the chimney was too narrow – just 80 centimetres by 80 centimetres.

Their life-threatening injuries demanded extensive know-how from the climbing rescue workers,” the fire service said on Monday.

Firefighters had to knock down part of an interior wall in the building to reach the young woman, who had slipped below steel bars projecting across the shaft.

But it still took three hours to get the young couple out of the chimney.

Fire service spokesman Tobias Schülpen told WAZ that the two had climbed onto the cover of the chimney after sneaking onto the roof But the cover gave way and the pair fell down the shaft.

“They fell feet-first into the shaft and may have slowed one another down because of how narrow the shaft is,” Schülpen said.

“The signs don't point to them sitting on the edge of the chimney and then overbalancing.”

Academy students and professors were shocked at the accident, which is likely to overshadow the “Sommerrundgang” – an exhibition when final-year students show off their final projects.

“We hope they survive,” said Academy Chancellor Dieter Koska.

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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.