Mottarone, expert report reveals lack of controls and rope already damaged An avoidable tragedy, relatives: "It hurts to know that it was spun in such conditions."

A  tragedy that could have been avoided, at least from two points of view: with controls on the rope and without the inhibition of the emergency brakes. This is the picture that emerges from the expert reports filed in court in Verbania on Friday regarding the May 23, 2021, Mottarone cable car massacre in which 14 people lost their lives. The two expert panels, one led by Prof. Antonello De Luca and the other led by Prof. Paolo Reale, drew their conclusions in response to the complex question that had been posed by Magistrate Annalisa Palomba as part of the evidentiary accident; the answers lie in more than 1,000 pages of documents.

At the base was one certainty: “The cause of the precipitation of cable car No. 3 was the presence of emergency brake system excluders (‘forks,’ ed.) inserted by cable car service personnel.” But this was already known, it had already been admitted a few days after the tragedy by one of the suspects, Gabriele Tadini, who, however, had called the possibility of the rope breaking an “impossible” eventuality. And in fact his lawyer, Marcello Perillo, clarified to LaPresse, “We know that the primary cause was that but we will evaluate the many other elements to understand what other concauses there are and in what percentage they affected the fall.” The experts also showed that, based on images from video surveillance systems, between May 8 and May 23, 2021, the crashed cabin traveled 100 percent of the time with the ‘forks’ stuck in. Cab No. 4 during the same time period had them inserted in 68 percent of trips. That means 329 trips for Cab No. 3, 223 for the other.

The other crucial aspect is the rope breakage: why did it break? While there is no evidence of any anomaly in the construction of the fused head, the panel of experts led by De Luca argues that on May 23, however, about 68 percent of the wires that made up the rope were already compromised. Analyses “unequivocally showed how the breakage of the pulling rope […] occurred not due to excess strain, but to an evolution of degradation in the rope itself.” The breaking of the wires had thus occurred “already before the collapse on May 23, 2021.” But the controls required by the standards would not have been done, “at least in recent months”: “a proper implementation of the controls themselves” would have “allowed to detect the signs of degradation” and thus “to replace the fused head, as required by standards.”

Relatives’ grief

For the relatives, the pain is continuous: “What hurts me is the willingness to run something like that there with 15 people on it despite these conditions,” Luca Nania, uncle of one of the victims, Alessandro Merlo, tells LaPresse, “for profit or for other interests, I don’t know, then they disabled the brakes as well. However, justice will take its course.” Attorneys for the maternal family of the sole survivor, little Eitan, speak clearly: “If there were still any doubts, the expert report dispels them,” they tell LaPresse. “The serious neglect, on the one hand, of the maintainer. The practice, repeated over time, and therefore very serious, of the manager, who by disarming the brakes actually allowed the system to operate in violation not only of the law, but with disregard for the human lives of passengers.”

“This appraisal confirms what was found in the first days and that is, first of all, that without the forks the tragedy would not have happened and that maintenance was not being done as it should have been done,” says Stresa Mayor Marcella Severino. “The expertise does not increase a pain that is already enormous, it brings it back to the surface and thoughts return to the victims and their families,” she concludes.

So many other details are noted in the expert reports: from the existence of blind spots in the video surveillance system to the failure to store black box data for a year (there are only for about 8 months). The noise of individual rope wires breaking (‘tleng’) and another noise, the one heard just before the cabin fell, are described. All of this will help the prosecution shed light on the disaster. In the conclusions it goes even further: “It must be held that the cableway operators and the staff in charge, adequately trained for the purpose, must be aware of the existence of the risk […] of both the breaking of the movement ropes and the (consequent) relevance of the function of the emergency brake.” But the lawyers for the suspects, 12 in total plus two companies, are cautious: “It is not possible to date to comment on an expert report drawn up after such an articulate piece of work,” Andrea Da Prato, legal counsel for operations director Enrico Peroc, tells LaPresse

© Copyright LaPresse