Three people arrested after Italian cable car crash kills 14 people

·2-min read
<p>The wreckage of the cable car</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

The wreckage of the cable car

(AFP via Getty Images)

Three people have been arrested over a cable car crash that killed 14 in northern Italy.

Italian police say an investigation showed a clamp placed on the brake as a patchwork repair prevented the brake from engaging after the lead cable snapped.

Police spokesman Alberto Cicognani said at least one of the three people questioned overnight admitted what happened. He said the fork-shaped clamp had been placed on the emergency brake to deactivate it because the brake was engaging spontaneously and preventing the funicular from working.

The clamp was put on several weeks ago as a temporary fix to prevent further service interruptions in the cable car line taking sightseers to the top of the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore.

Italian police say an investigation showed a clamp placed on the brake as a patchwork repair prevented the brake from engagingAP
Italian police say an investigation showed a clamp placed on the brake as a patchwork repair prevented the brake from engagingAP

After the lead cable snapped on Sunday, the cabin reeled back down the line until it pulled off entirely, crashed to the ground and rolled down the mountainside until it came to rest against some trees.

Fourteen people were killed, and the only survivor, a five-year-old boy, remains in hospital.

"Because of a malfunction, the brake was continuing to engage even when it wasn't supposed to," Mr Cicognani told Sky. "To prevent the cabin from halting during the transport of passengers, they chose to not remove the dispositive that blocked the emergency brake.

"In this way, the brake couldn't function, and this brought about the fact that when the cable broke, the cabin fell backwards."

Sky and the LaPresse news agency identified the three people arrested as the owner of the cable car service, the company's director and the service chief.

Verbania prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the deactivation of the brake was clearly designed as a stop-gap measure to allow the funicular to continue operating.

Verbania prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the deactivation of the brake was clearly designed as a stop-gap measure to allow the funicular to continue operatingAFP via Getty Images
Verbania prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the deactivation of the brake was clearly designed as a stop-gap measure to allow the funicular to continue operatingAFP via Getty Images

The more extensive, "radical" repair operation that was needed would have been likely to take it out of service, she said.

Ms Bossi told reporters that investigators believed the stop-gap measure was used with "the full knowledge" of the cable car company owners.

She said it was not clear why the lead cable broke or whether it was related to the brake problem, but she added that the intentional deactivation of the brake, done several times over recent weeks for a persistent problem, prevented the brake from doing its job when the cable snapped.

The mayor of the home town of one of the victims, Serena Cosentino, announced that the city would pursue legal action against those responsible, saying it would present itself as an injured party in the civil portion of any possible prosecution.

"The news unfortunately is showing a broad plane of responsibility and omissive guilt," Diamonte mayor Ernesto Magorno said in a statement.

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