14 people were killed in the accident on Pentecost Sunday.
The operations manager of the crashed cable car rejects allegations that he had operated the cable car again and again with the emergency brake deactivated before the accident. This never happened with passengers on board.
D.he operations manager of the Stresa-Mottarone cable car, which crashed on May 23, rejected the assumption that the system had been operated with the emergency brake deactivated for years. “Never before April 26th of this year did I insert the metal claw to deactivate the emergency braking system when passengers were on board,” said the 64-year-old man after matching media reports on Thursday of the responsible examining magistrate Donatella Banci Buonamici. As the alleged main person responsible for the accident on Pentecost Sunday with 14 deaths, the operations manager is under house arrest. He has been working for the operating company of the cable car between Lido di Stresa and Monte Mottarone for more than three decades.
On Wednesday, the responsible public prosecutor Olimpia Bossi in Verbania confirmed that ZDF had made the video recordings of Swiss cable car expert Michael Meier available to her. The evening before, the “Frontal 21” program broadcast the recordings made by Meier between 2014 and 2018 from the cable car on the west bank of Lake Maggiore. The metal fork for deactivating the emergency braking system can already be seen in recordings from 2014 while there are people in the gondola, Meier said on the program. The former head of the ropeway technology department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Gábor Oplatka, said of the recordings: “Obviously you have done that and have been lucky so far.”
The cable car was not put back into operation until April 26th after a compulsory break due to the restrictions on pandemic control. Because there had evidently been disruptions during the trial run, the operations manager had the metal claw inserted. In previous years, the claw had only been used for test purposes during empty runs or, if necessary, with operating personnel on board, the operations manager assured the investigating judge, the Italian media reported on Thursday.
After an initial inspection of the accident site and the inspection of the operating facilities, the experts commissioned by the public prosecutor’s office expressed the assumption that the massive use of the metal claw to deactivate the emergency braking system could have caused the pull rope to tear. As a result, the forks could have put too much tension on the rope, causing the attachment of the pull rope to the cabin to break.