Cable Car in Crash That Killed 14 Had Emergency Brakes Deactivated: Police

Italian police arrested three men on Wednesday in connection with a cable car crash in Stresa, Italy, on Sunday that killed 14 people.

The three suspects are accused of deliberately deactivating the brake, which could have prevented the car from flying backwards when the cable snapped, to avoid delays following a malfunction.

Prosecutors in Italy have launched an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence, Reuters reported.

A five-year-old Israeli boy was the only survivor of the incident, which killed five of the child's family members. The boy suffered injuries to his skull, chest and abdomen as well as several leg fractures.

"His reawakening is continuing and a short while ago he was extubated," Citta della Salute hospital director Giovanni La Valle told reporters, noting the situation remained "delicate."

The accident took place in the Mottarone mountaintop overlooking Lake Maggiore and other lakes near Switzerland when the car's lead cable snapped and the carriage slid down the mountain before crashing to the ground.

The three arrested were the manager of Ferrovie del Mottarone, the company that manages the cable car, and its director as well as the manager of the cableway, an official from Italy's Carabinieri police force told Reuters.

According to Italian news agencies, the three suspects were identified as Luigi Nerini (the head of Ferrovie del Mottarone), Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio (the two others at the company).

Carabinieri Lieutenant colonel Alberto Cicognani told Italy's Radiotre radio station that the emergency brake had been deactivated.

The most recent intervention was reportedly on May 3 but "they did not fix the problem, or only in part," Cicognani added.

"To avoid further interruptions in the service, they chose to leave in 'the fork,' which prevents the emergency brake from working," added Cicognani.

The cable car was reported to have undergone major maintenance work between 2014 and 2016. Inspections were also conducted in 2017 and 2020 by specialist technicians, Reuters reported.

Local chief prosecutor Olimpia Bossi claimed the fork had been inserted "several times," suggesting the car may have been unsafe for some time.

"With the conviction that the cable car would never break, [the suspects] took the risk which determined the deadly outcome," Bossi claimed.

The website of the cable car company currently states "The cable car is closed" and "The Ferrovie del Mottarone company, as plant manager Stresa-Alpino-Mottarone cableway, expresses its condolences...to the families of the victims in this time of pain."

Newsweek has contacted the cable car company and the Italian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure for comment.

A cable car crashed in Stresa, Italy
Emergency staff from the Italian National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps surrounding the wreckage of the cable car crash on May 23 in Stresa, Italy. Italian National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps via Getty Images