A CABLE car technician has told cops “it’s all my fault” after a horror crash in Italy that killed 14 people.
Three managers from the cable car operating company are facing “very high” prison sentences after allegedly admitting to deliberately deactivating the emergency braking system.
The catastrophic event lasted around 30 seconds and began as the car neared the summit and then shot back down towards a pylon, before flying into the air and smashing into the ground.
Cops arrested three of the cable car bosses on Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated manslaughter and two other offences related to the incident, and are currently being held in a prison in Pallanza, Italian media reports.
It is alleged the trio disabled an emergency brake to avoid closing for crucial repairs and losing out on income.
‘IT’S ALL MY FAULT’
The suspects have been named as company owner Luigi Nerini, 56, and two other managers, Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio.
According to la Repubblica, Tadini, a technician, has admitted he “deliberately and repeatedly… deactivated the braking system”.
“It’s all my fault,” he reportedly told magistrates on Thursday.
Investigators said the emergency braking system had been “tampered with” instead of carrying out the costly “radical intervention” it required to fix the problem.
Chief prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the three managers are facing “very high” jail terms due to the “extraordinary gravity” of the situation.
And the trio have been branded “murderers” by one of the victims’ sister who claims they “disabled the brakes to save money”.
Gali Peleg, 29, the aunt of Eitan Biran, 5, the sole survivor, has blamed the horror crash on the managers and says it was “not an accident” rather than “a deliberate tragedy,” report Italian media.
Peleg and her husband Ron are desperate for answers and are determined to get to the bottom of it.
She told La Stampa: “It wasn’t a tragedy, it wasn’t a fatality. It was a murder.
“It was written in the newspapers and repeated on television that it seems that ‘we wanted to save on maintenance, we didn’t want to keep the cable car still.’ This has cost so many lives.”
Peleg lost her sister Tal Peleg-Biran, 26, Eitan’s mum, her brother-in-law Amit Biran, 30, and her two-year-old nephew Tom.
The family, originally from Israel, lived in northern Italy where Amit worked at a clinic in Pavia, after studying medicine in the city, and his psychology graduate wife looked after their sons.
Members of the Jewish community attended a prayer ceremony for the victims at Verbania Hospital on Wednesday, before the bodies were released to their families.
Tal’s grandparents Barbara, 71, and Yitzhak Cohen, 81, who were visiting from Israel, also died in the crash.
Eitan is beginning to wake up in hospital after he was placed in a coma with head injuries and a broken leg.
Tragically, the youngster asked “where’s mummy” as he woke up in hospital in Turin.
Last night, during a service for the victims and Eitan, the mayor of Stresa, Marcella Severino, said: “This is September 11 for Stresa.”
A prayer from the Pope was also read out by the local priest.
“The Holy Father thinks with emotion of so many lives tragically broken… and sends his prayers to the victims and for little Eitan,” Father Gianluca Villa told the congregation, Mail Online reports.
‘IT WAS A CONSCIOUS CHOICE’
On Wednesday, Bossi said the tourist site had reopened after a Covid closure in late April and operators used a jerry-rigged clamp to avoid having to shut the attraction for the “more extensive” repairs and risk losing money.
“It was a conscious choice, absolutely conscious. That’s it,” Bossi told reporters.
“It was not an occasional omission or forgetfulness.
“It was a conscious decision to disarm… to deactivate this emergency system in order to remedy what we have been told were problems, technical problems that were occurring on the line.”
Bossi added: “This was a deliberate choice for economic reasons; the cable car should have been closed.”
The prosecutor said it still wasn’t clear why the lead cable snapped or whether it was related to the brake problem.
But she said the intentional deactivation of the brake – done “several times” over recent weeks for a persistent problem – prevented the brake from doing its job.
In a report, she speaks about the “deliberate will to circumvent the essential safety systems of the plant for economic reasons and in absolute disregard of the safety rules, aimed at protecting the safety and life of the persons transported”.
“Tadini admitted to having deliberately and repeatedly engaged the brake lock devices, deactivating the emergency braking system,” she said, before adding that Perocchio and Nerini, “supported this choice and did not take action to allow the necessary maintenance interventions that would have required the shutdown of the plant, with economic repercussions”.
“Certainly Sunday was not the first day and this has been admitted,” Bossi told reporters.
The questioning of the suspects is expected to take place on Saturday morning.
Alberto Cicognani, a police official, said the fork-shaped clamp had been placed on the emergency brake to deactivate it because the brake was “engaging spontaneously” and stopped the cable car from working.
“Was the brake deactivated deliberately? Yes, yes, they admitted it,” Cicognani said yesterday, according to The Times.
“There were malfunctions in the cable car, the maintenance firm was called, they didn’t solve the problem, or only partly.
“To avoid further disruptions to the service, they chose to leave a ‘fork’ inserted which stops the emergency brake working.”
The mayor of the hometown of one of the victims, Serena Cosentino, said the city would pursue legal action against those responsible.
“The news, unfortunately, is showing a broad picture of responsibility and omissive guilt,” Mayor Ernesto Magorno said in a statement.
Roberta Pistolato, a doctor working on the frontline of Italy’s battle against Covid, died in the tragedy as she celebrated her 40th birthday with her boyfriend Angelo Gasparro, 45.
And Vittorio Zorloni, 55, and his 37-year-old partner Elisabetta Personini were killed along with and their five-year-old son Mattia.
The accident also claimed the lives of Serena Cosetino, 27, a scientific researcher, and her 30-year-old boyfriend Mohammed Reza Shahisavandi, an Iranian student, who also worked in a bar in Rome.
Engaged couple Silvia Malnati 27, and Alessandro Merlo, 29, were also killed.
The crash is Italy’s worst cable car disaster since 1998 when 20 people were killed after a warplane accidentally severed a supporting cable.
Checks had been carried out in 2017 and last year by specialist technicians after previously undergoing major maintenance work.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini said on Monday: “The government, as well all the institutions, are naturally committed to understanding the causes, to understanding what happened.”