Venice Bans Gondolas In Grand Canal After Death Of German Tourist Joachim Vogel

on August 27 2013 9:12 AM
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Venice officials say they will implement bans on gondolas in the Grand Canal during busy hours to make water traffic safer. Reuters

Venice authorities will impose a ban on gondolas in the city’s famous Grand Canal during busy times of the day in an effort to make traffic on the waterway safer, following the death of a German tourist. 50-year-old Joachim Vogel was killed on Aug. 17 when the gondola he was traveling in collided with a vaporetto water bus.

Vogel, a university professor from Munich, was thrown from the gondola into the water along with his wife and three children near the Rialto Bridge. Vogel was reportedly crushed between the gondola and the ferry. Vogel’s 3-year-old daughter was treated for a head injury at a hospital in Padua.

According to the BBC, Venice police found traces of cocaine in the system of the gondolier who was driving Vogel and his family. In the two weeks since Vogel’s death, city officials have rushed to create new safety proposals that would add a heightened level of “discipline” to the teeming canal, including routine drug and alcohol tests for gondoliers.

The city had already put in motion plans to begin breathalyzer tests on gondoliers at random after receiving widespread complaints about drunken behavior among the rowers, but those plans will now reportedly be sped up.

"We have to think of the Grand Canal as a street, a main street like that of all cities, with particular heavy traffic. We need some discipline," Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni told the news outlet on Monday. He added that to regulate the popular canal, "these measures will require some sacrifices for citizens."

Orsoni said that authorities are weighing several options including allowing gondolas to pass through the canal at regimented times of the day, possibly after rush hour, enlarging narrower parts of the canal by eliminating small docks, and implementing a ban on hand-held devices like smart phones, the Daily Mail reported.

Venetian gondoliers have already been under fire since July, when a passerby uploaded a video of an aspiring gondolier’s assistant being drunkenly hazed onto YouTube. In the video, the young man, assumed to be under the influence of alcohol, was forced to strip naked and jump into the Grand Canal, prompting outrage from city councilors.

A group of Venetian gondoliers called for the boatmen involved to have their licenses revoked. They called the hazing incident a “despicable act” in a statement, saying, "Gondoliers represent our city in the world and must therefore respect historical and traditional values, as well as human dignity,” the Telegraph reported.

Nicola Falconi, president of the gondoliers’ association, pushed the issue further, arguing for mandatory drug testing. "Given that unruly behavior is on the increase, I'm proposing tests, which would be conducted without warning," Falconi said. "We don't yet know if it's practicable but we at least need to try to tackle this growing problem."