ROME – The three suspects in the cable car disaster in Italy that killed 14 people were allowed to leave prison on Sunday after a judge said most of the blame went to just one: a technician from service that intentionally deactivated the car’s emergency brake because it continued to lock spontaneously.
Judge Donatella Banci Buonamici said there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the owner of the Mottarone cable car company, Luigi Nerini, or the head of maintenance, Enrico Perocchio, knew the technician had disabled the brake several times even before the disaster of May 23.
After assessing prosecutors’ request to keep the three men in detention, Buonamici ordered the release of those responsible while allowing the technician, Gabriele Tadini, to go under house arrest. The three men, who are still under investigation, left Verbania prison early Sunday, accompanied by their lawyers.
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Fourteen people were killed when the lead cable of the Mottarone funicular overlooking Lake Maggiore in northern Italy broke and the emergency brake did not prevent the cable car from backing up along the line. support. The cable car completely left the line when it struck a support pylon, crashed to the ground and then rolled down the mountain until it was stopped by a grove of trees.
The only survivor, Eitan Biran, 5, remains hospitalized but conscious, his aunt looking after him. Eitan’s parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents were killed in the disaster.
It is not known why the traction cable broke.
Tadini admitted during questioning that he left a fork-shaped bracket on the cable car’s emergency brake to deactivate it as it continued to lock on its own while the car was in use, his lawyer said , Marcello Perillo.
Speaking to reporters outside Verbania prison, Perillo said Tadini would never have left the rack in place if he thought it could put passengers at risk.
“He’s not a criminal and would never have let people ride with the brake system locked if he had known there was even a possibility the cable had broken,” Perillo said. “He can’t even begin to understand the fact that the cable broke.”
Prosecutors had speculated that Tadini officials knew about the manually operated brake and had an economic reason to use it to operate the funicular. Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the owner should have taken the entire elevator out of service for the more extensive “drastic” repairs that were needed to fix the faulty emergency brake.
But lawyers for Nerini and Perocchio said the two denied knowing anything about Tadini’s maneuver and said they had no reason to let a cable car run without a brake system.
The elevator only reopened on April 26 after a long Covid-19 shutdown and was preparing for the summer tourist season in a picturesque part of northern Italy.