THREE men held over the Italian cable car tragedy that killed 14 people have been released from custody after a judge found a “total lack of evidence” against them.
Officials today said that service manager Gabriele Tadini was put under house arrest, while technical director Enrico Perocchio and the head of the cable car operating company, Luigi Nerini, were set free.
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.
Police arrested the three men on Wednesday after prosecutors in the city of Verbania opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.
But judge Donatella Banci Bonamici found a ‘total lack of evidence against Nerini and Perocchio’, according to a ruling quoted by the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday.
Prosecutors have alleged the three men — the owner of the cable-car company, an employee and an engineer who dealt with maintenance — were aware of the lift’s technical problems.
The prosecutors said in a legal filing the three had deliberately placed fork-shaped clamps on the emergency brakes to avoid them being constantly activated.
Tadini, who was in charge of putting the lift in motion, told prosecutors: “I’m aware of the mistake I made leaving the clamps on.”
He has been placed under house arrest. His lawyer, Marcello Perillo, told Reuters he had not requested Tadini’s release after his admission.
Perillo said: “There is no denying the issue of the clasps, for that he will have to face consequences.
“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.”
Verbania Chief Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi told reporters the judge had decided there was no sufficient proof Luigi Nerini, owner of the company operating the lift, and Enrico Perocchio, the engineer who was in charge of maintenance and safety, were aware of the situation.
Mr Bossi said: “In any case the investigation continues, we still don’t know why the cable broke in the first place.
Leaving Verbania prison last night, Perocchio told reporters that he had no idea that the brakes that should have prevented the gondola from crashing when the cable gave way had been blocked.
Perocchio said: “I’ve got 21 years of experience with lifts that use cables, I know that’s something you don’t ever, ever do.”
Nerini’s lawyer, Pasquale Pantano, told reporters last night the release was welcome news but the main thing was to find out who was responsible for the disaster.
The sole survivor, a boy aged five, awoke from a coma on Friday and cried out “where’s mummy?”
Eitan Biran, who suffered injuries to his skull, chest, and abdomen after the Mottarone tragedy, has regained consciousness after his younger brother, parents and great-grandparents were killed.