Cable Car That Killed 14 After Crashing Into Woods Was ‘Tampered With’, Prosecutors Claim
Prosecutors have alleged a cable car in Italy had been ‘tampered with’ before it crashed, killing 14 people.
The incident took place on the Stresa-Mottarone funicular near Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region of northern Italy on Sunday, May 23, when 15 people were travelling on the car between the resort town of Stresa and Mount Mottarone.
The ride lasted 20 minutes and was nearing its end when the cable car suddenly plummeted 20 metres into the woods below. Only one passenger – a five-year-old boy – survived the crash and is now in intensive care at Regina Margherita hospital.
The tragic incident is believed to occurred when a lead cable broke and the emergency brakes failed to activate, in turn causing the cabin to hurtle backwards before falling.
This week, prosecutors working on the case claimed the brakes had been ‘tampered with’, with Chief Public Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi saying the changes had been made as a ‘conscious gesture’ to ‘avoid disruptions’ to the cable car service, Ansa reported, per The Guardian.
Three people have been detained in the wake of incident, including the owner, director and operational chief of the firm that manages the cable car service, Ferrovie Mottarone.
The cable car system is said to have shown ‘anomalies’ since operations resumed in April as Italy eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Bossi said the cable car had been ‘travelling in that way for several days and had made several trips’.
Technical checks were conducted as operations started up again, including a check on May 3 to ‘remedy inefficiencies’, but investigators claim they had not been ‘decisive’ in resolving issues.
To keep the service running on time, operators kept in place a device that deactivates the emergency brakes. If the brakes had been working as intended, the cabin would have remained steady when the cable snapped. It is thought the device was kept in place ‘in the belief that a cable breakage could never have happened’.
A series of checks had been carried out on the cable car over the past seven months, according to the group that conducted major renovation works on the system a few years ago, Leitner di Vipiteno. The checks included yearly magnetic inspections on the primary cables of the lift in November 2020, as well as checks on safety components and braking systems between late March and early May.
The family of the surviving five-year-old – including his parents, who are Israeli nationals resident in Italy, his younger sibling and his great-grandparents – were all killed in the incident. Other victims included a six-year-old Italian boy, and one man who was born in Iran and lived in Rome.
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