Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Italian cable car boss faces up to 30 years in jail over disaster

‘It’s all my fault’: Italian cable car technician tells magistrates while his boss faces up to 30 years in jail over disaster that killed 14

  • Luigi Nerini, 56, boss of the cable car firm reportedly faces 30 years in jail
  • Meanwhile his technician Gabriele Tadini told magistrates: ‘It’s all my fault’
  • But prosecutors say Tadini’s decision to deliberately deactivate the brakes – to avoid delays following a malfunction – was signed off by his two managers 
  • Nerini, Tadini and manager Enrico Perocchio were arrested on Wednesday
  • Five-year-old Eitan Biran, sole survivor, opened his eyes for first time yesterday
  • His parents, younger brother and great-grandparents were killed in the crash 

The Italian cable car boss accused with two others of deactivating the braking system that could have saved 14 lives on Sunday is facing 30 years in prison.

Five-year-old Israeli Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the crash in the Alps, opened his eyes for the first time on Thursday but remains in intensive care. His parents, younger brother and great-grandparents were killed in the tragedy. 

Luigi Nerini, 56, head of Ferrovie del Mottarone, the firm which manages the cable car was arrested on Wednesday along with two colleagues Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio.

Nerini is awaiting indictment in a cell at Verbania prison but may face 14 manslaughter counts, which could see him jailed for 30 years, according to German paper Bild. 

Tadini, a technician, meanwhile told magistrates on Thursday: ‘It’s all my fault,’ La Republicca reported, explaining that he had deliberately tampered with the brakes to avoid delays following a malfunction.

But investigators say this deactivation of the brakes – that could have stopped the car flying backwards when the cable snapped – was approved by his senior colleagues Nerini and Perocchio.

The investigators allege that the two managers ‘had been repeatedly informed and both Perocchio and Nerini endorsed this choice.’ 

The remains of the wrecked cable car is inspected by officials on the Mottarone mountain in the Italian Alps on Thursday

Luigi Nerini, 56, (left) head of Ferrovie del Mottarone, the firm which manages the cable car was arrested on Wednesday along with two colleagues Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio (right) 

Amit Biran, 30 (left), his wife Tal, 26 (right), and their two-year-old son Tom were among those killed in the cable car crash in Italy. Eldest son Eitan (bottom right), five, is in hospital

The prison where the three suspects are being held in Verbania

The coffin with the body of Serena Cosentino, one of the cable car accident victims, arrives on the hearse in the church of Gesu Buon Pastore where the funeral will be officiated in Diamante, Cosenza, on Thursday

A picture of Alessandro Merlo and Silvia Malnati, a young engaged couple who died in the tragedy at the Mottarone cable car, during their funeral in Varese on Thursday

‘It was a conscious choice, absolutely conscious. That’s it,’ prosecutor Olimpia 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,’ she added. 

Although a maintenance team reportedly came to fix those problems on May 3, they remained unresolved, local Carabinieri police official Alberto Cicognani told Radiotre radio.

‘To avoid further interruptions in the service, they chose to leave in ‘the fork’, which prevents the emergency brake from working,’ said Cicognani.

He claimed all three men admitted what had happened.

The apparatus known as the fork had been inserted ‘several times’, said Bossi, suggesting the cable car had been unsafe for some time.

‘Certainly Sunday was not the first day and this has been admitted,’ Bossi told journalists. 

Five-year-old Eitan remains in a critical condition but was yesterday awake, ‘speaking with his aunt and looking around,’ said a spokesman for Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital.

‘From a clinical point of view, he is still in a critical condition due to his thoracic and abdominal trauma and the fractures to his limbs.

Alessandro Merlo and Silvia Malnati, 29 and 27, also died in the tragedy. Friends said the couple had been engaged for 10 years but were planning to marry – prompted by Silvia’s recent graduation from university

Angelo Vito Gasparro, 45, wife Roberta Pistolato (together left and right), died when the cable car plunged 65ft during a trip to the mountains to celebrate Roberta’s 40th birthday

Vittorio Zorloni and Elisabetta Persanini (together left, and Vittorio pictured right) were also killed in the accident, along with their five-year-old son Mattia. The couple were engaged and due to be married next month, Italian media reported

A woman cries over a white coffin during a ceremony for the members of the Biran family on Wednesday before they were returned home 

‘In the next few days he will be taken out of intensive care and transferred to a hospital ward.’ 

The bodies of his mother, Tal, father, Amit, younger brother Tom and his great-grandparents were lined up at the Milan Malpensa airport on Wednesday ahead of their repatriation to Israel. 

He had earlier been visited by the Mayor of Stresa Marcella Severino who has called the crash her town’s 9/11.

‘This is September 11 for Stresa,’ the mayor said on Wednesday evening as a message from the Pope was relayed by the local priest during a service for the victims. 

‘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 which included firefighters, nurses and carabinieri who rushed to the Mottarone mountain in the Alps after the cable car fell. 

Rescuers found five bodies still inside the cable car, with the others strewn outside. 

Engineers ‘tampered with’ the braking system (circled) on the Italian cable car as part of a botched fix in order to avoid delays, prosecutors said

Picture reveals the red ‘fork’ that allegedly prevented the brakes from working on the cabin’s wreckage covered with a tarpaulin

Since the cable car reopened on April 26 after lockdown, technicians on the Ferrovie del Mottarone had noticed faults on the braking system (circled)

The cable car hit a pylon, then hit the ground, tumbling down the mountain for about 500 metres (1,600 feet), before coming to a stop, according to news reports

Graphic shows the cable car’s route after the cable snapped as the car neared the station at the top of the mountain

Among the dead were Eitan’s family, including great-grandparents Itshak and Barbara Cohen, 82 and 70; Alessandro Merlo, 29, his fiance Silvia Malnati, 27; husband Angelo Vito Gasparro, 45, and wife Roberta Pistolato; Vittorio Zorloni, his fiancee Elisabetta Persanini, 38, and the couple’s five-year-old son Mattia; and lovers Serena Cosentino, 27, and Mohammadreza Shahaisavandi, 23. 

The first funerals of some of the victims took place in both Italy and Israel on Thursday.

Sunday’s crash was the first fatal incident involving a cable car in Italy since 1998, when a low-flying US military jet severed a cable at a ski resort, killing 20 people.

It came at the start of the country’s much-anticipated reopening to tourists after coronavirus closures. 

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