Three men were arrested Tuesday in connection with a cable car crash that killed 14 people, Italian police told NBC News on Wednesday.
Luigi Nerini, who owns a cable car company Ferrovie del Mottarone, will be remanded in custody in a prison in the Verbian city for 48 hours, police said. They will be joined by director Enrico Perocchio and Gabriele Tadini, an engineer at the company.
Investigators believe the men are aware that the brake system in the cable car is disabled, police said.
The gondola descended on Sunday as it took a 20-minute trek from Strsa - a small town on the shores of Lake Maggiore about 55 miles north of Milan - to the top of Mount Mottarone in the Alps, about 4,500 feet above sea level.
It was nearing the end of its journey when the lead cable burst. The gondola backed up so fast that it pulled the cable and fell to the ground 60 meters below where it rolled several times until the trees were stopped. It was not immediately clear why the lead cable had exploded.
There was only one survivor, a 5-year-old Israeli boy taken to Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin with broken legs and trauma.
He is in a stable but critical condition and is slowly recovering from a coma caused by medication but has not been diagnosed, hospital spokeswoman Paolo Berra said on Wednesday.
Police and paramedics were working near a cable car that crashed into the ground in the resort town of Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Italy on Sunday.
Police and rescue workers were working near a cable car that had crashed into the tourist town of Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Italy on Sunday. Italian Police / AFP - Getty Images
Investigators believe that Perocchio, Nerini and Tadini "blocked the safety brakes because last month the cable car had problems that caused it to stop several times," said Luca Geminale, the Verbania police chief in charge of investigations.
If a cable car stops the middle trip, "its recovery takes as many hours as it needs to be done by hand," he said, adding that this "had significant economic consequences for the business."
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the killings and negligence.
Nerini's lawyer could not be reached for comment and it would not have been possible immediately to find representatives for the other two.
The cables were inspected in November and no problems were found, according to Leitner spokesman Maurizio Todesco, a cable car maintenance company.
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"We don't know if there is a problem with the brake system on that cable car, it was not marked by us," he said.
"We are still trying to understand what happened, and why if there was a problem we were not involved. On April 30, we checked the electric brakes, and everything was ready."
The cable car service was recently reopened after the closure of coronavirus ski resorts in Italy.
It opened in August 1970 after nearly three years of work to install a railroad, the Ferrovie del Mottarone website said.
The two-wire system is divided into two sections, one more than a mile between Stresa and Alpino and the other about two miles between Alpino and Mottarone, it said.
It has two vehicles, one way, each carrying up to 40 passengers, in addition.
Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome with Rachel Elbaum of London.