6 Germans die as 'drunk driver' hits tourists in Italian Alps

Two of the injured who were in a very serious condition were flown by helicopter to a hospital in Innsbruck in Austria.
AFP

A drunk driver ploughed into pedestrians in an Italian Alpine village on Sunday, killing six German tourists and injuring 11 other people, authorities said.

The accident happened at around 1:15 am (0015 GMT) in the village of Lutago near the Austrian border in an area popular with skiers.

A group of German tourists had just got off a shuttle bus as they returned to their hotel from an evening at a nightclub when the car slammed into them at high speed - throwing some of them dozens of metres.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a statement expressed his "most sincere" condolences to the "families of the young German tourists", wishing those injured a swift recovery.

"I cry with those who have lost their children, their brothers and sisters, their friends, in the night," German Chancellor Angela Merkel added on Twitter.

Six Germans were killed, a fire service official in Lutago told AFP. Eleven other people were injured - two of whom were seriously hurt and flown by helicopter to a hospital in the Austrian city of Innsbruck.

They were fighting for their lives, according to the prosecutor's office in nearby Bolzano.

The local head of Italy's paramilitary carabinieri police force told AFP that the driver, a 27-year-old local resident, had been charged with murder and put in hospital under police guard.

The prosecutor's office said the driver had between 1.9 and 2.0 grams of alcohol per litre in his blood, about four times the maximum allowed level.

He could face a prison sentence of up to 18 years, it added.

"I had just dropped the youths off when I saw the car coming at a crazy speed," the bus driver told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

"I flashed my headlights in vain to tell the driver to slow down. A few seconds later I saw these poor kids flying through the air in my rear-view mirror."

'A TERRIBLE SCENE'

Roughly 160 emergency workers went to help out after the accident and a field hospital was set up at the side of the road.

"A terrible scene, people on the ground, cries and pain, a tragedy - we don't have the words," a hotel receptionist told Corriere della Sera.

"We have asked several times for a radar on this road as drivers speed up as soon as they leave Lutago and here, one kilometre from the centre, they go at 100 kilometres per hour."

"The New Year has begun with a tragedy," South Tyrol governor Arno Kompatscher told reporters.

South Tyrol is a largely German-speaking province afforded a high degree of autonomy from Rome, known in particular for the Dolomites mountain chain.

German officials said the country's consulate in Milan was in close contact with the local authorities and staff were helping the people affected.

Lutago, in the picturesque Aurina valley, is popular with tourists who ski at Klausberg and Speikboden.

The village of about 800 residents is the location for a popular Italian television series "Un Passo dal Cielo" ("One Step from Heaven").

Last week, three Germans - a woman and two girls, one aged seven - were killed in an avalanche in South Tyrol.