Three arrested over Italian cable car disaster that killed 14 people

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.
Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.PHOTO: AFP

ROME (REUTERS) - Three people were arrested on Wednesday (May 26) over a cable car crash in northern Italy that killed 14 people, after a prosecutor said the safety brake mechanism had been deactivated, police said.

On Sunday, the gondola on a cable way connecting the town of Stresa, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, to the nearby Mottarone mountain plunged to the ground, killing all aboard, apart from a five-year-old Israeli boy.

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.

A Carabinieri police officer said they had arrested the owner of Ferrovie Mottarone, the company that manages the cable way, its director and the manager of the cable way.

Captain Luca Geminale, of the Carabinieri police in the city of Verbania, said that in order to get around problems with the cable car mechanism, the three men had made use of a device that stopped the emergency brake from working.

Lieutenant colonel Alberto Cicognani told broadcaster RAI that the three had deactivated the emergency brake, which had been kicking in repeatedly and preventing the service from operating as it should.

On Sunday, the braking mechanism on the wire bearing the weight of the cabin failed to engage and the gondola slid backwards before apparently hitting a pylon and tumbling to the ground, where it rolled down the steep slope before hitting trees.

Ferrovie Mottarone was not immediately available for comment.

The cable car underwent major maintenance work between 2014 and 2016. Checks were carried out in 2017 and again last year by specialist technicians.