The revelations, obtained during an overnight police interrogation of the suspects, turned the horror of Sunday’s disaster into a scandal, as the tragedy appeared to have been entirely preventable. Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi speculated that operators of the tourist funicular, which had reopened after a COVID-19 winter shutdown, were using the jerry-ring clamp to avoid having to close the attraction for larger repairs and ” radicals ”that were necessary.
“We arrested three people who, in fact, were directly involved in a concrete fact: the emergency braking mechanism of the cabin that fell on the Mottarone slope was tampered with,” Bossi told reporters in Verbania, adding that the gravity of the disaster justified their detention. .
Bossi said it was still not clear why the lead cable broke or if it was related to the brake issue. But she said the intentional deactivation of the brake, carried out several times over the past few weeks for a persistent problem, has prevented the brake from doing its job.
After the lead wire broke on Sunday, the cabin backed up on the line until it struck the pylon and retreated entirely. He crashed to the ground and rolled down the side of the mountain until he was resting against some trees. Fourteen people were killed; the only survivor, a five-year-old boy, remains hospitalized.
Line reopened in April
Lieutenant Colonel. Alberto Cicognani, of the National Carabinieri Police, said at least one of three people interviewed overnight admitted what had happened. He said the fork-shaped clamp was placed on the emergency brake to deactivate it because the brake spontaneously engaged and prevented the funicular from operating.
The cable car line reopened from the lockdown on April 26 and took tourists to the summit of Mottarone Peak overlooking Lake Maggiore on the first sunny Sunday since then. The jerry can clamp was still in place on the brake Sunday morning, Cicognani said, citing information gleaned from the suspects themselves.
“Due to a malfunction, the brake continued to engage even when it wasn’t supposed to,” Cicognani told Sky TG24. “To prevent the cabin from stopping during passenger transport, they chose not to remove the device that blocked the emergency brake. “
“That way the brake couldn’t work, and it resulted in the fact that when the cable broke the cab fell backwards,” he said.
Sky and the LaPresse news agency identified the three arrested as the owner of the cable car service, the director of the lift and the head of the service.
Bossi, the Verbania prosecutor leading the investigation, said disabling the brake was clearly intended as an interim measure to allow the funicular to continue operating. She told reporters that investigators believed it had been done with “all the knowledge” of the owners of the cable car company.
The development, as the town of Stresa at the foot of Mottarone was still recovering from the trauma of Sunday’s disaster, “is another blow,” said Stresa mayor Marcella Severino.
The investigation was continuing, but the mayor of the hometown of one of the victims, Serena Cosentino, announced that the city would take legal action against those responsible. The mayor said the town of Diamonte, in southern Calabria, would stand as an injured party in the civil party in any possible lawsuit.
“The news, unfortunately, shows a big picture of responsibility and omissive guilt,” Mayor Ernesto Magorno said in a statement.
The developments in the investigation came as doctors at the Regina Margherita Pediatric Hospital in Turin reported that the sole survivor of the disaster, five-year-old Eitan Biran, began to open his eyes after gradually having him out of sedation.
Biran suffered several fractures in the accident, which killed his parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents. An aunt who was not in the cable car was with him in the hospital.
The Israeli family lived in Italy and on Wednesday members of the region’s Jewish community attended a prayer ceremony for the victims before their remains were brought back to Israel for burial.