Judge suggests blame for crash rests with service technician who disabled emergency brake
Three men who were arrested over a cable car disaster that killed 14 people in Itália have been allowed to leave prison after a judge indicated that the blame for the crash rested with a service technician who disabled the car’s emergency brake.
The car fell 65ft into the side of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy on 23 May when the lead cable for the vehicle snapped and the emergency brake failed to prevent it from reeling at high speed backwards down a support line.
It pulled off the line entirely after passing a support pylon, crashed to the ground and then rolled down the mountain, killing all but one of the passengers.
Judge Donatella Banci Buonamici said on Sunday that there was not sufficient evidence to show that the owner of cable car company, Luigi Nerini, or the maintenance chief, Enrico Perocchio, knew the brake had been deactivated on several occasions before the crash.
Ms Buonamici ordered for the managers to be freed and allowed the technician, Gabriele Tadini, to leave under house arrest after determining that there was no flight risk for the suspects.
The three men, who remain under investigation, left Verbania prison early on Sunday, accompanied by their lawyers.
The lone survivor of the crash, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, remains hospitalised but conscious and is being cared for by his aunt.
His Israeli-born parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents were killed in the disaster and their remains have been sent back to Israel.
Leitner SpA, the Italian-based company that maintains the lift, said “no irregularities were detected” during the November 2020 magnetic testing of the lead cable and other annual checks did not show problems with it.
Marcello Perillo, Mr Tadini’s lawyer, said the technician had admitted to leaving a fork-shaped bracket on the cable car’s emergency brake to disable it because it kept locking on its own while the car was in service.
Contudo, Mr Perillo insisted that his client would not have left the bracket in place if he knew it could endanger passengers.
“He is not a criminal and would never have let people go up with the braking system blocked had he known that there was even a possibility that the cable would have broken,” he told reporters outside Verbania prison.
“He can’t even begin to get his head around the fact that the cable broke.”
Prosecutors have suggested that Mr Nerini and Mr Perocchio may have known about the problem and kept the cable car running for economic reasons – a claim that both men have denied.
Lawyers for Mr Nerini and Mr Perocchio said the two men denied knowing anything about Mr Tadini’s actions and argued that they had no reason to let a cable car without a brake system operate.
The judge agreed, noting that neither they nor Leitner, the maintenance company, would have had an interest in doing so.
Additional reporting by AP