3 arrested in Italy cable car crash; clamp deactivated brake

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Rescuers work by the wreckage of a cable car after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region, northern Italy, Sunday, May 23, 2021. A mountaintop cable car plunged to the ground in northern Italy on Sunday, killing at least five people and sending at least three more to the hospital, authorities said. (Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico Piemontese via AP)

ROME (AP) — Police in northern Italy arrested three people early Wednesday in the cable car disaster that killed 14 people after an investigation showed a clamp, intentionally placed on the brake as a patchwork repair, prevented the brake from engaging after the lead cable snapped.

Carabinieri Lt. Col. Alberto Cicognani told Sky TG24 that at least one of the three people questioned overnight admitted to what happened. He said the fork-shaped clamp had been placed on the brake specifically to prevent it from engaging because it was braking spontaneously and preventing the funicular from working.

The clamp was put on several weeks ago as a temporary fix to prevent further interruptions in the funicular service, Cicognani said. The cable car line went back into service on April 26 after a wintertime coronavirus-linked shutdown.

After the lead cable snapped Sunday, the cabin reeled back down the line until it pulled off entirely, crashed to the ground and rolled over down the mountainside until it came to rest against some trees. Fourteen people were killed; the lone survivor, a 5-year-old boy, remains hospitalized.

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