Italy Cable Car Deaths Marked

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Cavalese, Italy Feb. 3 (AP)--As relatives wept quietly, a priest urged politicians and prosecutors during a memorial Mass Thursday to do more to uncover the truth behind the cable car tragedy that killed 20 people.

The Rev. Aldo Pancheri said he did not want to stir controversy with his sermon marking the two-year anniversary of the accident.

``But the grief the families still suffer sends a strong message to the political and judicial authorities to shed more light on the incident,'' Pancheri said.

Several dozen family members and hundreds of well-wishers gathered in Cavalese's church for the Mass. The American deputy ambassador to Italy and representatives of the U.S. and Italian military also attended.

Relatives then moved in a procession to the town's cemetery, where they laid flowers on a memorial stone erected last year.

Seven Germans, five Belgians, three Italians, two Poles, two Austrians and one Dutch person plunged to their deaths Feb. 3, 1998 when a U.S. Marine jet sliced the cables of their ski gondola.

The EA-6B Prowler, assigned to Aviano, Italy, for missions over Bosnia, was on a low-level training mission. Prosecutors contended it flew through the Dolomite valley far too fast and too low.

A military jury in Camp Lejeune, N.C., acquitted the jet's pilot, Capt. Richard Ashby, of manslaughter, angering the victims' relatives and Italian authorities.

Ashby 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.

Family members are still waiting for full compensation from the Italian and American governments. They have also demanded to know more about why the accident happened.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press