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Three arrested in Italy cable car crash as investigators reveal brake was deactivated

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By Euronews with AP
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.
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.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Police in northern Italy arrested three people early Wednesday over the cable car disaster that killed 14 people after an investigation showed the brake was intentionally deactivated.

Carabinieri Lt. Col. Alberto Cicognani told Italian television that at least one of the three people questioned overnight admitted to what happened.

A clamp was put on the brake several weeks ago as a temporary fix because it was spontaneously engaging and preventing the funicular from working, Cicognani said.

The cable car line went back into service on April 26 after a long coronavirus 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 and the lone survivor, a 5-year-old boy, remains hospitalised.

Criminal charges considered

Speaking with reporters on Monday, lead prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said criminal charges could potentially be laid as more information comes to light.

Among the "hypothetical charges", she said, are "multiple manslaughter" and "attempted manslaughter" of the sole survivor of the incident - a five-year-old Israeli boy living in Italy, who is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Turin after suffering multiple broken bones.

The Israeli foreign ministry has identified the young boy as Eitan Biran, with his parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents being among those killed in the disaster.

Bossi further said that charges for an "attack on public transport" could also be considered.

While she said a cable car may "look like a peculiar" form of public transport, she said that it ultimately fits the definition.

In the hours following the incident, concerns have been raised over the safety of Italy's transportation infrastructure.

The country's transport ministry has said that the cable car system had undergone a renovation in August 2016 and had received a full maintenance check in 2017 and further inspections last year.

The cables themselves had been checked in November and December 2020, the transport ministry said.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini announced that there would be an inquiry into the incident, alongside the investigation from the prosecutor's office.

Condolences for the victims' families have poured in in the wake of the incident, with EU Council President Charles Michel offering his condolences in a tweet, writing "Europe is in mourning with you" in Italian.