A cable car slid 500m backwards hill before smashing into the ground in a horrifying ride which lasted 30 seconds.
The gondola, on a cableway that takes visitors up a mountain from near the shore of Lake Maggiore, plunged to the ground on Sunday, killing all aboard apart from a 5-year-old Israeli boy, who suffered multiple broken bones and is in critical condition.
Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.
“We are starting from the empirical evidence. The cable sheared and the system of safety brakes clearly did not work,” said public prosecutor Olimpia Bossi.
Italian outlet Corriere Della Serra has published an analysis of the events leading to the crash, which is the country’s worst cable car disaster since 1998, when 20 people died after a low-flying U.S. warplane accidentally cut through a supporting cable.
The cable holding the car snapped around noon as the gondola neared the end of its 20-minute journey to the top of the Mottarone mountain.
The braking mechanism on a second wire that was bearing the weight of the cabin failed to engage.
This allowed the gondola to slide backwards 500m down the slope before hitting a pylon and being thrown into the air.
It plummeted 20m onto the ground below before rolling over and down the hill, eventually coming to a stop in front of two trees.
The cable car underwent major maintenance work between 2014 and 2016.
Checks were carried out in 2017 and again last year by specialist technicians.
Italian media reported that the wires were not due to be replaced until 2029.
The cabin could hold up to 40 people, but was less than half full because of restrictions to prevent Covid-19 infections.
The lift station had been closed much of the winter because of coronavirus and had reopened last month.
Stresa Mayor Marcella Severino said the accident was believed to have been caused by one of the cables breaking.
She told broadcaster RAI that hikers heard a loud hiss before the crash just after midday.
Some of the victims were found trapped inside the car, with others thrown into the woods, she added.
Dario Prezioso and his six-year-old son were supposed to be on the lift that ended up killing all but one of the 15 passengers.
Mr Prezioso spoke of a twist of fate which meant he and his child’s lives were spared.
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“When I heard news of the crash my blood froze – my six-year-old son and I could’ve been on that,” he was quoted saying in Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.
He explained how they had tried to the board the lift but as it had reached maximum capacity, the two had decided to wait for the next ride.
Vito Angelo Gasparro and Roberta Pistolato, from Bari, both died in the accident, as did engaged couple Silvia Malnati and Alessandro Merlo.