Three Arrests Made in Italy Tramway Disaster

The owner and two employees of the Stresa-Mottarone cable car operating company were arrested overnight, charged with manslaughter and intentional removal of precautions against accidents at work. Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said two devices were found blocking the crashed cabin‘s emergency track rope brakes in the open position. Company owner Luigi Nerini, engineer Enrico Perocchio and service manager Gabriele Tadini admitted this had become common practice to avoid downtime when brakes were malfunctioning. The brakes on cabin 3 had reportedly not been operable since April 26th. “It was a conscious choice dictated by economic reasons,” said Bossi, who is coordinating the criminal investigation. “The ropeway should have remained stopped until the problem was fixed.” One of the so-called forks was found still attached to cabin 3’s brakes and the other located on the ground nearby. The bright red devices are intended to be used during unmanned operation or for maintenance purposes. Brakes were not blocked on the other cabin sharing the same haul rope and that car was safely stopped and evacuated.

There’s no indication the underlying failure of the haul rope system was intentional and that remains the focus of a technical investigation. The haul rope loop was made up of two sections, an upper and lower, socketed to each of the cabins.

The crash killed 14 people and seriously injured a 5 year old child named Eitan. His condition was said to be improving Wednesday. Both his parents, his 2 year old brother and two great grandparents all perished along with 9 other passengers.

26 thoughts on “Three Arrests Made in Italy Tramway Disaster

  1. Mike May 26, 2021 / 8:44 am

    Italy has so many lift safety issues. No regulation or anyone checking these operators?


    • seilritter37 May 27, 2021 / 7:49 am

      Not just Italy has safety issues, we have them right here in the United States of America!


      • Mike Turley May 27, 2021 / 8:21 am

        What lift safety issues do we have in the United States ?


      • pbropetech May 30, 2021 / 12:37 pm

        We do? Please elaborate.


  2. Irakli May 26, 2021 / 9:27 am

    I am surprised by the fact of how similar the acts of staff of this cable car are to the ones in Tbilisi on Mtatsminda mountain back in 1990, which led to the same accident with 19 lost lives and 42 severely decapitated.

    Emergency brakes were registering anomalies which were leading to operational disruptions and they were manually blocked in Tbilisi and exactly this was done and the hauing cable snapped.

    So the history does not teach people anything. Italy is a part of OITAF, Georgia is a part of OITAF, that organization knows perfectly why and how the Tbilisi accident happen.

    I guess hauling cable could be damaged because of the malfunction of the emergency brake on cabin N3, if it used to engage prematurely causing the cabin to halt but the drive continued to run trying to drag the cabin along and this emerged a lot of pressure on hauling cable at it started to tear apart slowly if this situation continued every day for one month, it is not anymore surprising that the hauling cable gave it away and snapped.

    We had the same problem in Tbilisi on Turtle Lake bicable aerial tram in 2019, (Operational since 1966) the brake would engage but the drive did not understand that and kept dragging the cabin. In response the hauling cable fractured at multiple spots, specialists from Leitner arrived inspected it and repaired it, but the problem then again continued and it was determined that the hauling cable was severely damaged. We stopped the operation in mid-season when a huge amount of people need the cable car to the lake (and yes lost a lot of money in summer) and the cable car reopened after 1 year with a new hauling cable.

    I guess the staff working on the Moottarone cable car were too greedy to lose some money and repair it accordingly.


    • Powderpig May 26, 2021 / 10:19 pm

      The drive not recognizing the emergency brake had engaged and damaging the upper haul cable/socket by continuing to pull seems plausible. Thank you Irakli for putting another potential piece in this puzzle. The details in your account are compelling.


      • Kirk May 27, 2021 / 8:28 am

        I think your talking about the track rope brakes on the cabin?? Drive would either slide the cabin on the track rope with the brakes closed, slip on the Drive bullwheel, trip the Drive over current and etc. Drive should not be able to produce enough torque to part the haulrope in tension without something else slipping or safety tripping.
        Pulling ropes typically has a safety factor of 3:1 and spliced haulropes (such as chairlifts) of 4.5:1. The haulrope on a Tram would be considered a pulling rope.


        • Kirk May 27, 2021 / 12:10 pm

          Correction, Think safety factor on Tram haulropes all 4.5:1 also.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Pete May 27, 2021 / 2:15 pm

          Are you also saying that the dynamic event that accompanies an unexpected track rope brake engagement will not do any damage to the haul rope or sockets?


        • Manuel Júlio Fernandes May 28, 2021 / 9:14 am

          boa tarde, com os travões fechados não escorregaria. tem razão, a drive não deve ser capaz de produzir torque suficiente para separar o cabo de transporte em tensão sem algo escorregando ou protegendo tropeçar, mas já faziam isto durante um mês, por isso o torque todos os dias até que quebrou.


        • Michael May 28, 2021 / 12:21 pm

          Translation for Manuel Julio’s comment:

          good afternoon, with the brakes closed it would not slip. you are right, the drive should not be able to produce enough torque to separate the transport cable in tension without something slipping or protecting it from tripping, but they’ve been doing this for a month, so the torque every day until it broke.


        • Unknown Skier May 28, 2021 / 1:08 pm

          Google Translate’s “translate page” fail.


        • Michael May 28, 2021 / 4:12 pm

          Unknown Skier- That’s your contribution to this discussion? Let’s see yours.


  3. Kevin Senior Doppel Dog May 26, 2021 / 6:40 pm

    I find that all the press I have been reading has been putting serious doubts into the integrity of the cables, wire ropes,haul ropes etc which is very bad publicity for the growing acceptance of ropeways as a means of transportation.
    I hope that the industry takes some time and money to explain the cause of this criminal act??

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Liftelec May 27, 2021 / 5:20 am

    This is truly a tragic event. Our thoughts go out the family and friends of the people killed and injured. I do find it interesting that just 3 days after the failure we have a pretty clear picture of what may have happened. Granted, it appears that much of the evidence was quite obvious. The information is coming from government officials not the marketing department of the resort. It seems that in the US, every time there is an lift accident, it takes months to learn the true cause. Often, we never really know what happened so we can try to prevent it from occuring again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As the bullwheel turns May 27, 2021 / 4:49 pm

    So would running the 1 cabin with working brakes on upper line and leaving malfunctioning cabin unoccupied been an ok move or just shut the whole thing down?


    • Kirk May 27, 2021 / 7:21 pm

      I am not getting this whole unmanned cabin thing. All trams here in the US require an operator in the cabin. There is a manual release track rope brake set pull handle in the cabins. But that wouldn’t of worked either with the brakes mechanically blocked up at the brake itself.


      • Chris May 28, 2021 / 10:37 am

        There are plenty of unmanned tram cabins all over Europe. Usually ones with relatively small cabins.


  6. Kirk May 27, 2021 / 7:13 pm

    An inadvertent fault/application of the track rope brakes is certainly not ideal. But it can happen. The brass type brake shoes will side on the track rope for a while depending on the traveling speed. It would not be an instant stop unless the cabin was at creep speed. This all should be considered in the original design. When the track rope brakes set it should cause a emergency stop fault, Drive should shut off and bullwheel brakes should set.


  7. Irakli May 28, 2021 / 1:18 pm

    Tg1 has just confirmed the ruptured rope at the Melted Head attack point. Case solved.


    • Skier May 28, 2021 / 3:20 pm

      Does anyone have an example of how a socketed haul rope attaches to the hanger?


    • Kirk May 28, 2021 / 4:44 pm

      So if the rope failed during operation and the track rope tracks were bypassed, the haulrope was in a state of failure on the day they put it into operation. Probably visual broken wires at or near the socket. So much for pre-operational inspection of ropes?

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Powderpig May 29, 2021 / 9:32 am

    Leitner provided relevant dates of annual service contract maintenance:

    -Maintenance and inspection of the vehicles’ hydraulic braking systems: 3 May 2021

    -Non-destructive tests on all of the system’s mechanical safety components as part of the quinquennial overhaul. These tests were due in August 2021 but were brought forward to 29 March – 1 April 2021

    -Performance tests on the entire drive system: 18 March 2021

    -Lubrication and checks on the running rollers and sheaves in the stations: 4 and 5 March 2021

    -A test simulating a hauling rope breakage activating the track rope brakes – carried out on both vehicles on 1 December 2020

    -Regular magnetic-inductive testing on the hauling ropes (and all ropes of the installation) as per the provisions of Ministry of Transport Executive Decree No. 144 of 18 May 2016 (testing carried out once a year) with positive results: 5 November 2020

    Another relevant date is on or around April 26 2021 when brake was blocked for “economic reasons.” Finally, in December 2020, a visual inspection of the tension ropes was carried out by a specialized contractor.

    “The two section tramway system was built in 1970 by Piemonte Funivie, an Italian manufacturer later absorbed by Agudio. Leitner renovated both lifts between 2014 and 2016 at a cost of €4.4 million. The twin tramways opened for the current season April 24th following an extended Coronavirus-related closure.”

    When did the problem with the brake on cabin 3 begin? How intermittent? Did it ever happen on cabin 4? If only on one cabin then unlikely it is related to renovation and re-engineering involved. If only on one side then a technical issue that Leitner should have been able to solve. Before the brake was blocked and it mistakenly deployed on cabin 3 did the drive recognize or did it continue to pull. How often did this occur? How often was haul rope/socket/hanger inspected? Was this a required daily pre-operational inspection point? Did they hide this problem from Leitner during annual? Probably not. They probably did not inform Leitner when they disabled the brake to maintain operations.


  9. Peter Landsman May 29, 2021 / 7:37 pm

    Update: The owner (Mr. Nerini) and engineer (Mr. Perocchio) have been released from jail but remain under investigation. Manager Gabriele Tadini is under house arrest.


  10. Otis May 30, 2021 / 8:26 pm

    Why was Leitner not consulted/involved immediately when the braking system began to malfunction early in April? Because Leitner rebuilt the tram to the tune of 3+ million euros just a few years earlier they should have been immediately consulted when the malfunction(s!) began.


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