An Italian couple and their 11-year-old son fell to their death in a hole which gave way at a bubbling volcano crater near Naples in Italy.

The family of four had come to Naples from another part of Italy and they were exploring the sites when this terrible accident took place. Another son, aged seven, somehow remained unharmed during the incident.

According to the Italian fire brigade officers, the three dead bodies were pulled from a shallow hole in a section of the crater at the Solfatara volcano, which was cordoned off by a wooden fence intended to keep tourists out of the danger area. However, the three family members went inside the fence and the worst thing happened.

The victims were a 45-year-old man, a 42-year-old woman and their 11-year-old son.

“Either there was a small explosion, or the ground simply gave way from their weight, and they fell into this hole,” national fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said. “It was inside a fenced-off area.”

According to the officer, the three victims appeared to have died from asphyxia, possibly because of hot gases emanating from the ground. The exact cause of death is still unknown and it will only be uncovered after an autopsy is conducted.

The Solfatara volcano is one of many volcanic craters in the Campi Flegrei area, 20 kilometres west of Naples, which first opened up to tourists in 1900, according to its website.

The accident happened at the Bocca Grande (Big Mouth), the largest of the fumaroles in the area, which the ancient Romans called the home of the God of fire.