US military `broke rules on low flying'

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The Independent Online
Italian government ministers visiting the mountain resort in the Dolomites where a cable-car was knocked down by a US military aircraft yesterday accused the US military of "a clear violation of the rules" in allowing one of its planes to fly perilously low to the ground in a tourist area.

Echoing the anger and grief felt by the people of Cavalese, where 20 people - including a 13-year-old boy - died in the accident, the Italian Defence Minister, Beniamino Andreatta said there had been no excuse to run a low-flying training mission with a plane that is designed for radar- jamming operations from high altitude. Furthermore, he said, the aircraft had violated rules drawn up in 1955 that forbade planes to dip below 2,000 feet from the ground.

"To have to number and inspect body bags, and think that all this happened because the rules weren't followed is just terrible," Mr Andreatta said. The Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, echoed his sentiments, calling the accident the result of "tragic recklessness".

- Andrew Gumbel, Rome