ROME (AP) — Police arrested three people Wednesday in the cable car disaster that killed 14 people in northern Italy, saying an investigation showed a clamp, intentionally placed on the brake as a patchwork repair, prevented the brake from engaging after the lead cable snapped.
Carabinieri Lt. Col. Alberto Cicognani told Sky TG24 that at least one of the three people questioned overnight admitted to what happened. He said the fork-shaped clamp had been placed on the emergency brake to deactivate it because the brake was engaging spontaneously and preventing the funicular from working.
The clamp was put on several weeks ago as a temporary fix to prevent further service interruptions in the cable car line bringing sightseers to the top of the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore. It was still in place on Sunday morning, Cicognani said.
After the lead cable snapped Sunday, the cabin reeled back down the line until it pulled off entirely, crashed to the ground and rolled over down the mountainside until it came to rest against some trees. Fourteen people were killed; the lone survivor, a 5-year-old boy, remains hospitalized.
“Because of a malfunction, the brake was continuing to engage even when it wasn’t supposed to,” Cicognani said. “To prevent the cabin from halting during the transport of passengers, they chose to not remove the dispositive that blocked the emergency brake.”
“In this way, the brake couldn’t function, and this brought about the fact that when the cable broke, the cabin fell backwards,” he said.
Sky and the LaPresse news agency identified the three people arrested as the owner of the cable car service, the company’s director and the service chief.