Falling into a volcanic crater wouldn’t be a good way to go out. Unfortunately for an entire family in Italy, that’s exactly what happened.
According to reports, three members of a family visiting the Solfatara crater near Pozzuoli, Italy, fell into the pit and perished almost immediately. The visiting family consisted of two children, aged 11 and 7, and the parents. After the 11-year-old ran under a safety barrier to get a closer look, he tumbled into the crater. Both parents then rushed to save him and fell in as well. The 7-year-old remained in place behind the barrier and wasn’t injured.
Solfatara crater is a popular tourist destination. Near Naples, it’s part of the Campi Flegrei volcanic area. It’s been dormant since 1198, but still vomits out vast amounts of steam and sulfurous, acidic fumes–the latter of which killed the unfortunate victims.
“Today, it’s technically dormant, but an active magmatic system sits right beneath the surface,” wrote Robin Andrews for IFLScience. “It superheats groundwater under incredible pressures, which erupt out of vents at the surface along with plenty of sulfuric gas. When the two combine, they form an overwhelming cloud of sulfuric acid, which can render a person unconscious within mere moments.”
The BBC reported that the crater’s thin crust collapsed under the weight of the family. When they fell into the volcanic system, it’s likely that the fumes killed them on inhalation.