updated 9/6/2005 1:44:07 AM ET 2005-09-06T05:44:07

A helicopter accidentally dropped a heavy tub used to carry concrete onto a cable car at a ski resort Monday, killing nine people — three in the gondola that was struck and six others catapulted from cable cars nearby.

All the dead — six children and three adults — appeared to be members of a German group of summer skiers, Edelbert Kohler, head of the criminal police in Innsbruck, told The Associated Press.

The accident occurred in the ski resort town of Soelden, 25 miles southwest of Innsbruck and some 300 miles west of Vienna.

The helicopter was hauling goods to the top of the cable car lift for construction work when the tub loosened and fell, Kohler said.

Seven people were injured, including two in critical condition, police said.

1,500-pound tub
The Austria Press Agency said the tub weighed about 1,500 pounds. It was unclear whether it was loaded.

The gondola that was hit hurtled to the ground while passengers spilled out of two others nearby that were whipped back and forth by the cable, said Jakob Falkner, an executive of the cable car company.

Austrian authorities announced an investigation.

The glacier area around Soelden — some of it higher than 10,000 feet — is popular with summer tourists and skiers who flock to its perennially snow-covered Alpine peaks.

The accident evoked memories of another airborne ski lift tragedy in neighboring Italy, where a low-flying U.S. Marine jet sliced a ski gondola’s cables in 1998, killing 20 people.

It appeared to be the worst of its kind since 155 skiers and snowboarders died in a November 2000 alpine cable-car fire.

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