Italian police confirm they arrested three people in an investigation into the cable car crash that left 14 dead. All part of the management of the cable car.
On Wednesday (26th May), Italian police said they arrested three people in connection with the cable car crash in the Piedmont mountains. The crash left 14 people dead and a young child in critical condition after the car plunged down the mountainside.
All three people arrested are responsible for the management of the cable car. They stand accused of deliberately deactivating the emergency brake that could have prevented the car from hitting the mountain with the cable snapped.
Deliberately deactivated emergency brake
“The public prosecutors office has ordered three arrests for removal or omission of precautions against accidents at work,” a spokesman for the carabinieri police told AFP.
Local Carabinieri police official Alberto Cicognani told Radiotre radio station someone deactivated the emergency brake.
“There were malfunctions in the cable car, they called maintenance team,” he said. But “they did not fix the problem, or only in part,” Cicognani added. The most recent maintenance intervention reportedly occurred on May 3.
“To avoid further interruptions in the service, they chose to leave in a ‘fork’, which prevents the emergency brake from working.”
Investigators found a second ‘fork’ on Wednesday morning in the area of the accident, news agency Ansa reported.
Cicognani claimed all three men admitted what had happened.
Italian news agencies named the three suspects as Luigi Nerini, the head of Ferrovie del Mottarone, the firm which manages the cable car, and two other managers, Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio.
The three suspects stand accused of deliberately deactivating the emergency brake. If that had been functioning properly, it could have prevented the car moving backwards when the cable snapped. The reason for the deactivation? To avoid delays following a malfunction.
“It was a conscious choice, absolutely conscious. That’s it.”, prosecutor Olimpia Bossi told reporters.
“It was not an occasional omission or forgetfulness. It was a conscious decision to disarm… to deactivate this emergency system in order to remedy what we have been told were problems, technical problems that were occurring on the line,” she added.
Bossi told reporters the fork had been inserted “several times”. This would suggest the cable car was unsafe for some time.
“Certainly, Sunday was not the first day and this has been admitted,” Bossi said at a press conference.
Survivor starts to awaken
14 of the 15 people travelling in the cable car died on Sunday. The sole survivor, a five-year-old boy, is in critical condition at a hospital in Turin. He is receiving treatment for injuries to his skull, chest and abdomen and various leg fractures, local media reports.
Today (Wednesday), the hospital said he had opened his eyes. “His reawakening is continuing and a short while ago he was extubated,” Citta della Salute hospital director Giovanni La Valle told reporters. However, he added the situation remains “delicate”.
The boy’s parents, two-year old sibling and great-grandparents perished in the crash. They were all Israelis, though had settled in Italy. Repatriation of their bodies to Israel took place today.
Where did the accident happen?
The accident occurred near the end of the 20-minute ride up the mountain at Mottarone, close to Lago Maggiore.
After the cable snapped, the cable car hit a pylon, then the ground, rolling for about 500 metres (1,640 feet) before coming to rest by trees.
Rescuers found five bodies inside the cable car. The other victims were across the mountainside.