Italian couple and son die at Solfatara volcano crater

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Another seven-year-old son did not fall into the hole and was unharmed, national fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said.

THREE members of the same family have died after falling into a 1000C volcanic crater near Naples, Italy. His father and mother fell into the hole trying to save him.

The family of four had come to Naples from another part of Italy and they were exploring the sites when this awful accident took place. "The local civil protection department said that inside the pit was boiling hot mud". But at the depth of the pit, the victims could've been overcome by poisonous gases or its scorching mud.

A witness to the incident told la Repubblica newspaper he saw the 7 year old crying and asking for help.

Solfatara of Pozzuoli is a popular tourist attraction and one of a number of volcanoes to the west of Naples.

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A volcanologist suggested that heavy rainfall in recent days could have caused more openings in the Earth's crust that emit steam and gases

He added: 'I've worked here for 40 years and I've never seen an accident like this at Solfatara before'.

"The area was fenced and the relief was immediate".

"We tried to calm him, of course he was very shocked", he said of the 7-year-old boy who escaped. "I continue to think of the family and of the poor child who was crying and calling for help", Vitagliano, a pizza maker from Pozzuoli, told the newspaper la Repubblica. "I express the full support of the community of Pozzuoli to the families of the victims".

The Campi Flegrei is an area with more than 30 volcanic craters, whose possible eruptions worry scientists.

Although the Solfatara crater is dormant - last erupting in 1198 - it emits jets of steam and sulphurous fumes.

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