Six people from southern Russia were killed and two wounded after a snowmobile accident in the Italian Alps. Their vehicle tipped over and fell 100 meters down a steep ski slope.
Five of those who died and one of the survivors were tourists from southern Russia's Krasnodar; another survivor and one of the deceased both worked for a tourist company in Italy, RIA Novosti reported.
Russian diplomats have identified the four men and two women who died in the crash.
Six people died in the tragedy: Denis Kravchenko, 17; his mother Irina Kravchenko, 47; Vyacheslav Sleptsov, 54; Rafilya Pshenichnaya, 54, who owned the hotel; Yulia and Lyudmila Yudina, wife and daughter of survivor Boris Yudin, respectively.
It took investigators three hours to find all bodies as they landed some distance away from each other and were hidden in snow. The local authorities say the dead can now be returned to Russia.
Those injured in the accident – Boris Yudin and driver Azat Agafarov – were taken to hospital by helicopter.
Yudin's 17-year-old son, who was not on the vehicle, is expected to be escorted to his home city of Krasnodar, where his aunt will take care of him. Doctors said there was nothing life threatening about his father's condition, but it was unclear how long he would stay in hospital in Italy.
Azat Agafarov – the man thought to be mainly responsible for the accident – has been undergoing surgery and still does not know that his wife, and five other people, died. Doctors said he sustained severe trauma resulting in innumerable fractures.
The prosecution said they would test the blood of the driver, but thought it was unlikely to contain alcohol.
The tourists were driving to their hotel from a restaurant located in the mountains at around 10:00pm local time, the vice consul at the Milan embassy told journalists.
In an initial account of the incident, the driver of the snowmobile lost control of the vehicle for unknown reasons, after which it plunged 100 meters down the Cermis Mountain in Trentino province.
The accident may have been caused by technical problems with the vehicle, or speeding on a dangerous section of road, the Russian consul in Milan, Aleksey Paramonov, said.
The Italian prosecutor's office may launch legal proceedings against the sled’s driver, who is currently in hospital. A probe has been formally opened into whether manslaughter charges should be filed.
“The first assessment of the dynamics of what happened there clearly point on the violation of safety rules," Trentino province President Alberto Pacher said.
The sled-towing snowmobile was not meant to transport people. Only authorized employees – rescue teams and services staff – were allowed to use it on the ski slopes, the head of the local administration explained.
Investigators are looking at how a small snowmobile towing a trailer happened to be on a black piste, where only professional snow-cat vehicles are allowed.
It is thought the group took a wrong turn, heading down the difficult black run, instead of taking the easier illuminated slope they should have been on.
According to some reports in the Italian media, the tourists allegedly asked permission to use the snowmobile on the black run which was denied.
It has been reported that Agafarov and his wife bought a hotel in the province a year ago, and were working hard to attract Russian tourists.