3 arrested for Italy cable car crash that killed Israeli family

Investigators reportedly discovered “serious, disturbing” evidence of tampering by the cable car company.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Italian police arrested three employees of the Mottarone cable car company overnight Tuesday over a crash that killed 14 people, including an Israeli family.

Luigi Nerini, Mottarone’s owner, and the company’s operative head of service and lead engineer will be charged with crimes including manslaughter and negligent disaster.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that Olimpia Bossi, the chief prosecutor of the city of Verbania, said investigators at the crash site had discovered “serious, disturbing” evidence of tampering by the company that led to the tragedy.

Bossi said the suspects had engaged in a “conscious act” to deactivate the cable car’s emergency braking system, in an effort to push off necessary maintenance and repairs and keep the car running after a number of months when it had been out of service.

The suspects took “a risk that, unfortunately, had a fatal outcome,” and had made the decision “in the conviction that the cable would never break,” Bossi said.

Last Sunday, the Stresa-Mottarone cable car in Italy’s northern Piedmont region was traveling up the mountain when a cable snapped, sending the cabin plunging some 20 meters to the ground.

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Stessa’s mayor, Marcella Severino, said the cabin rolled several times down the mountain until it was eventually stopped by trees.

Security camera footage seized from the incident reportedly showed the operator gearing up to open the cabin’s door when the cable overhead snapped. The cabin sailed backwards down the hill, as the emergency brake failed to kick in.

Among the 14 passengers killed in the crash were the Biran family from Israel. Amit Biran, 30, and Tal Peleg-Biran, 26, and their child, Tom, and grandparents, Yitzhak Cohen, 82, and Barbara Cohen, 70, all perished.

The sole survivor of the crash was 5-year-old Eitan Biran, who recently woke up from a coma and is suffering from multiple broken bones.

A spokesperson from the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin said Eitan’s life was saved by his father’s embrace.

“In order to be able to survive the terrible impact, it is likely that the father, who was of robust build, wrapped his son in a hug,” the Italian la Repubblica newspaper quoted a hospital official as saying.