Sunday, October 24, 2021

Italy mountain cable car plunge: 3 company staff arrested, blamed for deaths

Prosecutors say the emergency brake was deliberately disabled to avoid having to take the car out of service for repair.

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Three people were arrested on Wednesday for being to blame for the crash of a tourist cable car in Italy last weekend that killed 14 people, UPI is reporting.

The disaster occurred on Sunday near the summit of Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.

A five-year-old boy, who is in intensive care at a Turin hospital, was the sole survivor. The boy’s parents, great-grandparents and a younger sibling were all killed as a cable snapped, the car plunged, hit the side of the mountain and rolled until it was stopped by trees.

Prosecutors said the car’s emergency brake had been deactivated.

Officials alleged a fork-like clamp had been placed over the emergency brake, which had been malfunctioning, after repair work on the car was unsuccessful, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The newspaper said investigators had initially believed the clamp had been left in place by mistake.

A local transport official said the inactive brake meant the car was travelling at over 100km/h when the stress on the cable caused it to snap and the gondola to fall and tumble down the side of the mountain.

The three people arrested were the owner of the firm that manages the Stresa-Mottarone cable car, the company’s director and the service’s operational chief, Ansa reported.

Police said one of the three had admitted responsibility for deactivating the emergency brake in order to avoid disruptions to the cable car service.

Chief prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the emergency brake system was deliberately disabled due to recent technical problems. The brake needed to be repaired but that would have meant taking the cable car out of service, she said.

Officials say the emergency brake could have prevented the crash by holding the car steady after the cable broke. Afterward, the car slid back into a pylon and fell to the ground.

Bossi said the investigation has found that it was a “conscious act” of the three suspects to insert the clamp that deactivated the braking system.

The cable car had been operating for several days and had made multiple trips without the emergency brake being operational, Bossi said.

The cable car had resumed service on April 25 when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted in Italy.

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