Venice tightens gondola traffic after fatal crash
'Safety serious, but Grand Canal still a road' says mayor26 August, 16:02
He may face involuntary manslaughter charges for the crash, which, in addition to killing a Vogel, threw his wife and three children into the water, sending the three-year-old to the hospital with minor injuries. Following the crash gondoliers set up a makeshift memorial to the father, including a pink shoe the toddler lost in the water, and tied black ribbons to their boats in his memory. Last month the gondoliers' association announced possible drug and alcohol testing after a series of complaints.
The move was said to come in response to a video posted to YouTube of a group of gondoliers allegedly hazing an aspiring assistant by forcing him to strip off his clothes and swim in a canal off St Mark's Square.
Drugs or alcohol were suspected to have been involved.
The city and local associations hope coming after substance abusers while clearing up canal congestion will make Venice's storied waterways a safer place to travel. "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, which held an extraordinary board meeting last week on safety and accident prevention. On Monday the mayor said the city was in the process of measuring the feasibility of widening narrow passageways - such as where the recent crash took place - by removing structures such as small docks. Falconi also calls for outfitting water buses with bow thrusters, propellers 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 the deadly accident, according to a preliminary reconstruction.
But no matter what measures are introduced, the mayor said it's important to remember that the Grand Canal is essentially a busy highway, not to be confused with your average stream. "The painful and dramatic episode...is being dealt with seriously, but without overdramatizing it, because the Grand Canal is a street, the principle artery of the city, with its traffic problems," said Orsoni. Nevertheless, he said, "we must introduce remedies to keep traffic from hurting those around it".