Service held for cable car dead

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The Independent Online

Relatives of the 20 people who plunged to their deaths when a US jet sliced a cable car line in the Italian Alps two years ago grieved for their loved ones today in a solemn service of music and prayer.

Relatives of the 20 people who plunged to their deaths when a US jet sliced a cable car line in the Italian Alps two years ago grieved for their loved ones today in a solemn service of music and prayer.

Seven Germans, five Belgians, three Italians, two Poles, two Austrians and one Dutch person died on February 3, 1998. Several dozen of their family members travelled to the Dolomite ski resort of Cavalese in Italy to mark the tragedy's two-year anniversary.

Relatives sat in silence as a local choir orchestra performed music by French composer Gabriel Faure in the town's church, Santa Maria Assunta.

"They have no words to express their loss or describe their grief," said Roberta Synal, spokeswoman for the German families.

The American deputy ambassador to Italy, the mayor of Cavalese and representatives of the Italian military also attended the requiem.

The Marine EA-6B Prowler, assigned to Aviano, Italy, for missions over Bosnia, was in a low-level training flight when it clipped the cables of the ski gondola.

The jet's pilot, Capt. Richard Ashby, was acquitted of manslaughter by a military jury in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the jet's crew was based. He was sentenced to six months in prison and dismissed from the Marines for helping destroy a videotape of the flight.

The navigator was also dismissed from the Marines and charges were dropped against two back-seat crewmen.

The accident - and subsequent acquittal of Asby- strained US-Italian relations and flared the anger of families who are still waiting for full compensation.

A memorial Mass is planned for Thursday, followed by a prayer service in Cavalese's cemetery, near the memorial stone erected last year in honour of the victims. Families are then expected to visit the accident site.

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