Detectives in Italy who investigated the devastating cable car crash that killed 14 people believe that the attractions’ brakes have been “tampered with”.
The gondola that connects the northern Italian alpine town of Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the 4,895-foot-high Mottarone peak fell to the ground near its highest point on Sunday.
The crash killed everyone on board except for a five-year-old Israeli boy, Eitan Biran.
He remains in the hospital after his entire family including his parents, grandparents and brother dies.
Police have arrested three men in connection with the cable car disaster and alleged that an emergency braking system was disabled to fix a bug.
Prosecutors suspect involuntary manslaughter and negligence, say authorities in the northern Italian region of Piedmont.
Police say the cable car’s brake failed to apply after a lead cable broke, causing the trolley carrying the tourists to fall to the ground, where it collapsed in a wreck on Mottarone’s steep, wooded slopes.
Lt. Col. Alberto Cicognani of Carabinieri told RAI that the suspects, whom he did not name, admitted that a fork-shaped bracket had been attached to the safety braking system to prevent it from working properly.
The cable car was not working properly and the brakes were constantly on. The clamp prevented them from being activated so the cable car continued to work.
“It is certainly very serious and very worrying,” Verbania City Prosecutor General Olimpia Bossi told reporters after the arrests.
“With the belief that the cable car would never break down, (the men) took the risk that determined the fatal outcome,” said Bossi.
A Carabinieri official in Verbania told Reuters news agency that the trio arrested were the manager of Ferrovie Mottarone, the company that manages the cable route, its director and the cable route manager.
The cabin was nearing the end of its journey to the top of Mottarone Mountain when the cable collapsed 65 feet above the ground.
The gondola slid back very quickly until it pulled the cable and fell to the ground, where it overturned before hitting trees, the police said.
The cable car was extensively maintained between 2014 and 2016.
The controls were carried out by specialized technicians in 2017 and again last year.
Most of the victims died on the scene. Bodies were found in the red and white rubble of the gondola and some were thrown into the forest.
Eitan suffered multiple fractures and was flown to a hospital in Turin, where he remained in critical condition following an operation this week.
The bodies of his family, including his brother Tom, 2, mother Tal Peleg-Biran, 26, father Amit Biran and great-grandparents Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen, were sent home to Israel on Wednesday.
The Italians Vito Angelo Gasparro and Roberta Pistolato also died in the disaster, along with the fiancé Silvia Malnati and Alessandro Merlo.