Emergency Brakes on Cable Car in Crash That Killed 14 Were Deliberately Deactivated, Investigators Say

Three have been arrested after a metal clamp was found holding the brakes open.

Three people have been arrested for manslaughter in connection with the cable car crash in Italy that killed 14.

A five-year-old child was the lone survivor of Sunday’s horror smash, that investigators now claim was fully preventable — had the emergency brakes not been purposely pried apart.

The 15 victims were riding to the top of Mount Mottarone, which had just recently reopened after a long Covid closure. They were within sight of the 4,900 ft-high station when disaster struck: one of the cables snapped, sending the car zipping backwards down the line at 60mph before striking a pylon. It was catapulted 180 ft through the air before smashing into the ground and rolling a further 50 ft down the mountain, until the mangled wreck finally came to rest against a tree.

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But as investigators picked through the devastated crash site, they made a horrifying discovery: a red metal fork-shaped clamp had been purposely inserted between the emergency brakes, which are designed to automatically grip the line in the event of sudden and unexpected speed, brakes that would very likely have prevented the disaster had they been allowed to operate as designed.

According to Verbania Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi, the operators had used the makeshift device as a stop-gap measure to prevent delays, and avoid having to shut the attraction down to make the extensive repairs that were needed.

“It is certainly very serious and very disturbing,” she said, per Reuters. “With the conviction that the cable car would never break, (the men) took the risk which determined the deadly outcome.”

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Carabinieri Lt. Col. Alberto Cicognani said technicians had noticed the brakes were malfunctioning when the ride first re-opened on April 26.

“Because of a malfunction, the brake was continuing to engage even when it wasn’t supposed to,” he told Sky TG24. “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.”

It is not yet known why the cable itself snapped.

Meanwhile sole survivor Eitan Biran remains in a coma with head injuries, a broken leg, and no idea both his parents, two-year-old brother and great-grand parents are all dead.

Doctors believe his family’s final embrace as they fell saved him from the same fate as his fellow passengers.

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