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08/27/2013

Venice considers waterway safety in wake of tourist death

REUTERSManuel Silvestri
Venetian gondoliers raise their oars as a sign of respect near the Rialto bridge, where a German tourist was killed.  (Manuel Silvestri/REUTERS)

In the aftermath of the death of a German tourist on the Grand Canal, Venice's mayor says the gondola traffic on his city's famous canals is really no different than cars streaming down a busy urban thoroughfare.

And the city is considering proposals to make the iconic waterways safer after 50-year-old Jaochim Vongel was killed Aug. 17 when the gondola he was a passenger in was hit by a water bus, or "vaporetto." His 3-year-old daughter was also injured in the crash.

"We have to think of the Grand Canal as a street, a main street like that of all cities, with particular heavy traffic," Mayor Giorgio Orsoni told the BBC. "We need some discipline."

According to the Daily Telegraph, the proposals include restricting when vessels carrying commercial goods can be on the water; prohibiting use of cellphones while piloting a craft; and removing unauthorized docks and piers in order to make more space on the canals. The association of gondoliers welcomed the proposals, the newspaper said.

The boatman in the fatal crash has tested positive for cocaine and hashish, Italian police have said, and they are trying to determine if the amount of drugs found in his blood and urine would have affected his operation of the vessel. In all, five people are under investigation in the crash, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.

Authorities have said the vaporetto was either docking or leaving the Rialto stop when it collided with the German family's gondola. 

Jennifer Quinn is a foreign affairs and investigative reporter at the Star. Follow her on Twitter @JQStar

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