© Reuters. Police and rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, Italy May 23, 2021. ITALIAN POLICE/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
MILAN (Reuters) – An Italian judge ruled late on Saturday that three men detained over a cable car crash that killed 14 people in northern Italy could leave prison, with one of them being placed under house arrest.
In the crash a week ago, the gondola on a cable way connecting the Lake Maggiore resort town of Stresa to a nearby mountain plunged to the ground, killing all aboard apart from a five-year-old Israeli boy who remains in hospital.
Prosecutors in the city of Verbania have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence. Police arrested the three men on Wednesday.
The judge ruled on Saturday there were no grounds for keeping them in jail since they could not run away and there was no risk of evidence being tampered with, Italian media reported.
Prosecutors have alleged the three men – the owner of the cable-car company and two employees – were aware of the lift’s technical problems.
The magistrates said in a legal filing the three had deliberately placed fork-shaped clamps on the emergency brakes to avoid them being constantly activated.
“I’m aware of the mistake I made leaving the clamps on,” Gabriele Tadini told prosecutors, according to the official transcript of his interview quoted by Sunday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Tadini was in charge of putting the lift in motion, which he did on May 23 just a few hours before the crash.
Tadini has been placed under house arrest. His lawyer, Marcello Perillo, told Reuters he had not requested Tadini’s release after his admission.
“There is no denying the issue of the clasps, for that he will have to face consequences,” Perillo said, adding it was yet to be established to which extent the other two had been informed of Tadini’s actions.
“There is no proof at present they were also responsible. They are people who should have known, but it’s not clear if they did.”
Enrico Perocchio, the engineer employed by the company in charge of safety checks on the cable car, said as he left Verbania prison on Saturday night that he had no idea the brakes had been blocked.
“I’ve got 21 years of experience with lifts that use cables, I know that’s something you don’t ever, ever do,” Perocchio said, according to la Repubblica website.
Perocchio and Luigi Nerini, owner of the company that operates the lift, have been freed pending the outcome of the investigation.
In ordering their release, judge Donatella Banci Buonamici wrote that there was “a complete lack of proof” against Nerini and Perocchio and the prosecutors’ request to keep them in jail was based on “mere suppositions”, Corriere quoted the document as saying.
Nerini’s lawyer, Pasquale Pantano, told reporters on Saturday night the release was welcome news but it was key to now find out who was responsible for the disaster.
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