- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2014

A man was crushed to death in Italy on Wednesday after a giant crucifix honoring John Paul II fell on him during a ceremony.

The 98-foot wooden cross collapsed on 21-year-old Marco Gusmini, killing him instantly, during an event near the Alpine village of Cevo ahead of the late pope’s canonization, the Agence France-Presse reported.

“It is an inexplicable tragedy. A young life, so many hopes, destroyed this way,” said Cevo mayor Silvio Citroni. “The boys ran in every direction when they heard the sound of the wood splintering. Unfortunately, that poor boy went the wrong way.”

Gusmini had a minor motor disability which may have slowed his reaction to the falling cross, AFP reported.

John Paul II is scheduled to become a saint in the Vatican on Sunday. Cevo’s mayor said further celebrations to mark the occasion had been canceled.

The cross, designed by sculptor Enrico Job, was created for John Paul II’s visit to Brescia in the Lombardy region in northern Italy in 1998.

“The news has really shaken me. My thoughts go to the poor boy and his family,” said Job’s widow, Lina Wertmuller. “That cross was a great symbol for Italy, a symbol of protection. But all that seems silly in the face of this terrible tragedy.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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