Venice seeks safer canal traffic after fatal gondola crash

Gondoliers pay their respects, as people line the bridge, in front of the place near Rialto bridge where a German tourist was killed in Venice taken on 18 August 2013 Gondoliers set up a makeshift memorial for the German tourist in Venice

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The authorities in Venice have set out proposals to make navigation safer on the city's main waterway after a German tourist died in a crash last week.

They aim to regulate traffic flow on the heavily congested Grand Canal, and include plans to carry out checks for drug use by gondoliers, the mayor says.

A 50-year-old German man died after his gondola collided with a "vaporetto", or public water bus, on 17 August.

Police say traces of cocaine were found in the bloodstream of the gondolier.

"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 BBC on Monday.

To avoid future accidents, he said, "these measures will require some sacrifices for citizens".

Gondolas may only be allowed to operate at certain times of the day after morning rush hour, he added.

He said the city council was assessing the possibility of widening narrow passageways by removing structures such as small docks.

They also hope to introduce a system of checking for drug and alcohol abuse by those in charge of boats and are looking into proposals to ban captains from using hand-held devices whilst navigating the canals.

On any given day, there's continual activity on the Grand Canal, with small craft of all kinds jostling and manoeuvring on the waters, says the BBC's Alan Johnston.

But there are so many of them that it can be dangerous, he adds.

Jaochim Vogel and his family were thrown into the water after their gondola collided with the water bus.

His three-year-old daughter was treated in hospital for head injuries. Mr Vogel died after getting crushed between the two vehicles.

An association of gondoliers, which oversees training and issues limited licences, is also engaged in discussions on safety and accident prevention.

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