To this day, Andrea S. from Milan cannot exactly describe the sound that the rupture of the traction cable caused. “You heard a buzzing coming from above, followed by a kind of metallic whiplash,” he reported to the “Corriere della Sera” over the weekend. At the moment of the gondola crash on Lake Maggiore exactly a year ago, the 39-year-old was with his partner on the hiking trail below the mountain station of the Mottarone cable car and was an immediate eyewitness to the accident. After the cable broke, the cabin, which had already approached the mountain station to within a few meters, raced unchecked over S.’s head down the valley before it was catapulted out of the supporting cable at the first support candelabra and smashed into the rocks below.

The Milanese was one of the first to run to the crash site, which presented a picture of horror: several dead passengers were scattered on the steep terrain, other lifeless bodies were in the completely destroyed cabin. S. found a badly injured man who was still alive and softly spoke some unintelligible words. “I told him ‘hold on’ – but a short time later he died in my arms,” ​​S. told the newspaper. Of the fifteen passengers who had been on the cable car, only six-year-old Eitan survived, who lost his parents, little brother and two great-grandparents in the cabin crash.

The tragedy had caused consternation far beyond the Stresa site of the accident – not least because just a few days after the accident it turned out that incredible human error had led to the tragedy. In the case of the Mottarone cable car, the emergency braking system had not worked properly in the previous weeks, leading to service interruptions; instead of repairing the brake, it was summarily rendered non-functional with a metal clip. Had the system worked, the passengers would have gotten away with a fright.

While the reason for the failure of the emergency brake was determined after just a few days – the offending cable car employee confesses and claims to have carried out the manipulation on the instructions of his superiors – it is still not certain what the primary cause of the crash was , namely the tear in the suspension cable. The corresponding report from the experts is expected for June 30th. According to one of the experts involved, who was quoted by the “Corriere della Sera” last week, the traction cable has rusted from the inside – because a routine maintenance measure that should have been carried out every three months was omitted for five years. In other words: blatant negligence seems to have been involved, not only when the emergency brakes failed, but also when the rope broke.

The public prosecutor of Verbano, Olimpia Bossi, is investigating a total of twelve people as well as the operating company of the cable car and the international cable car manufacturer Leitner, who was entrusted with the maintenance work on the Mottarone cable car. Bossi accuses the accused of causing a disaster, multiple manslaughter, negligent grievous bodily harm and the illegal removal of security systems. The criminal proceedings against the twelve suspects and the two companies will begin in July.

The accident on the popular Mottarone mountain with a view over Lake Maggiore happened on Pentecost last year, on May 23rd. It was the first weekend after the second Covid-related lockdown was lifted in Italy, and the weather was glorious. The boardwalk and restaurants were packed with tourists. “The tragedy of the cable car was a great trauma for the citizens,” says Stresa’s mayor Marcella Severino a year after the accident.

A service is held in Stresa on the anniversary of the tragedy; at the same time, a memorial stone will be unveiled, on which the names of the 14 victims are engraved. The cable car – along with the offshore Borromean Islands, the most important tourist attraction of the popular holiday resort on Lake Maggiore – is still out of service. How to proceed with her has not yet been decided. The local tourism professionals are demanding a safe and innovative facility within a short period of time.