The fall of one of the cabins of the northern Italian cable car that last Sunday caused the death of 14 people happened because the emergency brake had been expressly deactivated by the owner of the company and two employees, who have been arrested at dawn of this Wednesday.
“The brake was manipulated,” confirmed Olimpia Bossi, chief prosecutor of Verbania, in the north of the country, where the cable car connects the city of Stressa with the top of Mount Mottarone. “The manipulation was carried out consciously”, have corroborated the investigators collaborating in the investigation, among them Alberto Cicognani, commander of the Verbania police.
The manipulation, which consisted in placing some brake pads that blocked the brake, should serve, according to the detainees, to avoid an anomaly that caused the unexpected and inexplicable stop of the booths, so the entire installation had to be subjected to a new revision .
However, they decided to postpone it until later in order not to miss the first weekend of reopening after the lockdowns due to the pandemic. “On Sunday they inhibited the emergency brake”, commander Cicognani has riveted.
The detainees are Luigi Nerini, owner of the company Ferrovie Mottarone SL; the director of the service, Enrico Perocchio, and the chief operating officer, Gabriele Tadini. The three are accused of alleged wrongful death with the aggravating circumstance of having “abolished precautions against workplace accidents.”
As the technicians have explained, the fork that locks the emergency brakes is usually used during maintenance to prevent the movement of the cabs. “However, once the maintenance is finished, it is essential that the shoes are removed and several tests are carried out to verify that the system works perfectly,” explained Valeria Ghezzi, president of the national ropeway association (Anef).
The confession of those involved has occurred in the early morning of this Wednesday, after 12 hours of interrogation. An eventual conviction provides up to 10 years in prison for the basic accusation, to which would be added those involving aggravating circumstances.
Because of the conscious locking of the emergency brake, the cabin, with only five meters to go to the final station, began to slide into the valley at a speed that reached 100 kilometers per hour , according to the investigators. Finally he collided with a pillar of the installation, collapsed from 54 meters in height and rolled down the steep ground of the mountain until finishing his deadly race against a huge pine tree.
The 14 people in the cabin, far fewer than the 40 expected in normal times, died almost instantly. Eitan Biran, a five-year-old boy, has been in the ICU of the Santa Margherita hospital in Turin since the day of the accident. This Wednesday he will be extubated to check that he can breathe autonomously, after he has shown signs of recovery the night before, such as coughing and fidgeting.