ROME – The three suspects in the Italian cable car disaster that killed 14 people were allowed out of jail on Sunday after a judge said most of the blame fell on just one: a technician from service that intentionally deactivated the car’s emergency brake because it continued to lock spontaneously.
Judge Donatella Banci Buonamici said there was not enough evidence to suggest that the owner of the Mottarone cable car company, Luigi Nerini, or the head of maintenance, Enrico Perocchio, knew the technician had disabled the brake several times even before the disaster of May 23.
After assessing the prosecutors’ request for the continued detention of the three, Buonamici ordered the release of the leaders while allowing the technician, Gabriele Tadini, to go under house arrest. The three men, who are still under investigation, left Verbania prison early Sunday, accompanied by their lawyers.
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Fourteen people were killed when the lead cable of the Mottarone funicular overlooking Lake Maggiore in northern Italy broke and the emergency brake did not prevent the cable car from rolling back on the support line . The cable car came off the line completely when it struck a support pylon, crashed to the ground and then rolled down the mountain until it was stopped by a stand of trees.
The only survivor, Eitan Biran, 5, remains hospitalized but conscious, his aunt takes care of him. Eitan’s parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents were killed in the disaster.
It is not known why the traction cable broke.
Tadini admitted during questioning that he left a fork-shaped bracket on the cable car’s emergency brake to deactivate it as it continued to lock while the car was in use, his lawyer, Marcello, said. Perillo.
Speaking to reporters outside Verbania prison, Perillo said Tadini would never have left the rack in place if he thought it could endanger passengers.
“He is not a criminal and would never have let people ride with the brake system locked if he had known there was even a possibility the cable had broken,” Perillo said. “He can’t even begin to understand the fact that the cable broke.”
Prosecutors had speculated that Tadini’s leaders knew about the jerrycan brake and had an economic reason to use it to keep the funicular running. Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said the owner should have taken the entire elevator out of service for the larger and “sweeping” repairs needed to fix the faulty emergency brake.
But lawyers for Nerini and Perocchio said the two denied knowing anything about Tadini’s maneuver and said they had no reason to let a cable car without a brake system operate.
The elevator only reopened on April 26 after a long Covid-19 shutdown and was preparing for the summer tourist season in a picturesque part of northern Italy.