Tourist death spurs gondola safety drive
'Boat congestion to blame'19 August, 17:33
"Pulling back the many little piers that have been made over the years, thus widening the lateral spaces and the margins of safety in favour of circulating (boats)" would widen space for moving boats and reduce accident risk, said Captain Nicola Falconi, president of the Institution for the Conservation of the Gondola and Care for the Gondoliers of Venice. Falconi agreed with Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni that boat congestion poses real danger on the Grand Canal and in Venice's other major water arteries.
Falconi made his appeal on the eve of a technical meeting scheduled by the city administration Tuesday to assess boat overcrowding in the Grand Canal after a water bus smashed into a gondola with a German family on board over the weekend.
The force of the crash near the Rialto Bridge threw the mother, father, three children and the gondolier into the water.
The 50-year-old father died of head injuries, and one of the children - a three-year-old girl - was hospitalized.
Gondoliers set up a makeshift memorial Monday for the victim of the collision. Built on the gondolier dock near where the accident occurred, it included a pink shoe and a toy rubber ducky that belonged to the three-year-old. Surrounded by floral arrangements, both items were retrieved by the same gondoliers who leapt into the water to rescue the family.
Falconi praised gondoliers and expressed sympathy for water bus drivers for maneuvering busy, difficult canals on a daily basis "with objective dexterity".
Falconi also called for outfitting water buses with bow thrusters - propellers in the bow or stern that are not connected with propulsion - that enable boats to turn more easily and without added forward motion.
A sudden turn gone awry appears to have played a part in the dynamic of Saturday's accident according to a preliminary reconstruction.
Falconi added that fixed local police stations should be reinforced to monitor traffic congestion and that wave motion should be tackled in the Grand Canal and Saint Mark's Basin. The Gondola institute will hold an extraordinary board meeting this week on safety and accident prevention in the Venetian waterways, Falconi said.