The experts appointed by the Verbania prosecutor’s office to reconstruct what caused the accident at the Mottarone railway, which occurred on May 23, 2021, have filed an appraisal with over a thousand pages, drawings and videos. The results say that the fall of the cabin, which killed 14 of the 15 passengers on board, was caused by a failure of the braking system, but also by the wear of the rope due to lack of maintenance and checks. In fact, the experts confirmed the prosecutor’s suspicion: that the accident was not accidental, but caused by negligent management of the plant.
The accident of the Stresa-Alpino-Mottarone cable car occurred around 12.30, when the traction cable of the system, that is the cable that makes the cabin move, broke. The breaking of the rope occurred when the cabin was about to enter the arrival station: suddenly the cable car started to go backwards.
The emergency brake, which should have been activated, did not activate. The car picked up speed and when it crossed one of the pylons on the track it unhooked from the carrying rope and crashed to the ground after a twenty-meter fall, then rolled down the slope until it came to a stop against some trees.
During the first interrogations, the head of the cable car workers, Gabriele Tadini, admitted that he had inserted “forks”, tools that are used to block the emergency brake, because the braking system did not work well and often caused the cable car to stop along the way. Tadini also gave the names of those who knew of the matter. If the brakes had been activated, even after the rope broke, the car would have stopped almost immediately and would not have run backwards and then crashed.
According to the experts, the hauling cable of the cable car broke “due to the degradation of the cable itself which occurred in correspondence with the insertion of the cable into the cast head, the most delicate point of the cable”. The fractographic analysis, that is, which examines the breaking of the rope, showed that about 68 percent of the wires were already affected by a break “reasonably before the precipitation of 23 May 2021”: therefore the rope was already largely worn before the accident..
The cableway cable (ANSA / RAI TG1)CopyAMP code
To reduce the risk of accidents, in addition to maintaining the braking system, specific checks on the haul rope would have been sufficient. “The regulatory requirement, in addition to providing for the aforementioned presence and availability of the emergency brake acting on the supporting rope, also requires specific and programmed checks to be carried out on the hauling rope in correspondence with its attachment with the cast head aimed at replacing of the fused head at the appearance of the first signs of deterioration », we read in the report.
The fused head is the device that hooks the cabin of the cable car to the rope itself. It must be checked every three months by specialized technicians: the sleeve that covers it must be disassembled by replacing the grease to protect it from any water infiltration. It is the most fragile part of the whole mechanism: by law the cast head must be replaced every 5 years. That of the Mottarone cable car should have been replaced in October 2021, five months after the accident.
From the analysis, however, it emerges that the checks on the fused head had never been carried out. “A correct implementation of the controls themselves would have allowed to detect the signs of degradation, or the presence of even a single broken wire or signs of corrosion, and therefore to replace the cast head, as required by the rules”, wrote the experts.