Report. A new report explains how a cable car in Piedmont plunged, killing 14 people. A corroded cable should have been noticed, but it was not inspected for months as required by law.

Mottarone report: A corroded cable and a tragedy easily prevented

On Mottarone, the mountain that surrounds and divides Piedmont’s two largest lakes (Orta and Maggiore), the memory of that ill-fated May 23, 2021, remains a heavy burden to bear. The cable car stands still and motionless, after the fall which cost the lives of 14 people.

Now the results of the large-scale expert investigation have been published, filed with the Court of Verbania. The document, over a thousand pages, paints a picture of how proper maintenance would have prevented the tragedy.

The traction rope of the Mottarone cable car broke “due to the degradation of the rope itself that occurred at the connection of the rope to the fused head, the most delicate point.”

And on the use of the so-called “forks,” the pool of experts, led by Antonello De Luca, a professor at the Federico II University of Naples, says: “The cause of the fall of cabin number 3 was the insertion of disabling devices in the emergency braking system required by the norms and present in cabin 3. On the occasion of the breaking of the traction rope, these disabling devices prevented the emergency braking system from being activated and safely locking the cabin on the supporting rope.”

From May 8 to May 23, 2021, the day of the accident, cabin number 3, the one that crashed, “made all 329 rides recorded by the video surveillance system with the forks,” which had been inserted “223 times in cabin number 4 as well.”

The traction rope was corroded from well before the accident: “In fact, the fracture analysis showed that, at the breaking point of the pulling rope, about 68 percent of the wires had fracture surfaces that testify to wire breakage that can be reasonably established as prior to the fall on May 23.”

The condition of the traction rope had not been checked over the previous months, as required by law.

“The failure to conduct such checks violates the provisions of the regulations to prevent falls as well as the general principles of prudence and diligence which must be adopted in the operation of a ropeway installation.” The conclusion is terse: “Proper implementation of the controls would have made it possible to detect the signs of degradation, that is, the presence of even a single broken wire or signs of corrosion, and, therefore, to replace the fused head as required by the regulations.”

Evidentiary hearings in which the results of the expert report will be discussed have been set for Oct. 20, 21, and 24 by Judge Annalisa Palomba. There are 14 accused: 12 people (including manager Luigi Nerini, director Enrico Perocchio and service chief Gabriele Tadini) and two companies (Ferrovie del Mottarone and Leitner).

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