There are warning signs posted all along a fenced-off security area in the Solfatara crater, located in Pozzuoli, Italy, close to Naples. However, an 11-year-old boy ventured into the closed area, falling into a pit of boiling mud and volcanic lava. His parents, trying to save their son, also fell 1.5m (5ft) into the pit, leading to their deaths. Their seven-year-old child managed to get to safety, crying for help.

Tragedy in the Solfata crater

The couple was named as 45-year-old Massimiliano Carrer and his 42-year-old wife, Tiziana Zampella. They and their 11-year-old son Lorenzo are thought to have been overcome by gases or steam from the crater, which can have temperatures of 160 degrees Celsius or 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alternatively, they may have died from an explosion in the superheated mud. The mud and lava in the Solfatara crater reportedly reach temperatures of around 1,000 degrees Celsius or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. The couple’s seven-year-old son, Alessio, stayed outside the closed-off area as his parents attempted to rescue his brother. He is now being cared for by a psychologist.

Emergency crews unable to save the family

Emergency crews were immediately dispatched to the area but were unable to save either the parents or the 11-year-old boy.

A park official for Campi Flegrei told AFP they are still trying to understand how this could have happened, adding that the family had crossed through well-marked security barriers before falling into the volcanic pit. However, it was noted the area has recently experienced heavy rains, which may have caused more holes to form on the surface of the volcanic crater.

Witness to the incident tells of the tragedy

Diego Vitagliano, a witness to the incident, told the Sun newspaper that he saw a child running and crying, adding that he didn’t imagine he could face such a terrible tragedy, as he is also a father.

He said he was there relating to his work and as he and other visitors approached the scene, they saw two bodies being pulled from the volcanic pit. Authorities then pulled them away from the site. Vitagliano says he cannot stop thinking about the family and the seven-year-old calling for help and crying. The Mayor of Pozzuoli, Vincenzo Figliolia, expressed the condolences of the community to relatives of the victims.

Solfatara crater is a popular destination

The Solfatara crater is believed to have been formed some 4,000 years ago. The volcano is dormant, with its last eruption reportedly occurring in 1198. The site is popular with Italian school groups and visitors from all over the world and is famed for the sulfurous fumes emanating from the crater.

The Evening Standard reports there is a Roman myth that said it was home to their god, Vulcan.