Minute of silence observed in Italian region for victims of cable car disaster

ROME — The three suspects in Italy’s cable car disaster that killed 14 people are allowed to leave prison after a judge indicates that most of the blame fell on a service technician who intentionally disabled the car’s emergency brake because it kept locking spontaneously.

Judge Donatella Banci Buonamici says there isn’t sufficient evidence suggesting the owner of the Mottarone cable car company, Luigi Nerini, or the maintenance chief, Enrico Perocchio, knew the technician had deactivated the brake on several occasions even before the May 23 disaster.

After evaluating the prosecutors’ case and their request for continued detention of the three, Buonamici orders those two freed while allowing the technician, Gabriele Tadini, to leave under house arrest. The three men left the Verbania prison earlier today, accompanied by their lawyers.

Fourteen people were killed when the lead cable of the Mottarone funicular overlooking Lake Maggiore in northern Italy snapped and the emergency brake failed to prevent the cable car from reeling backward down the support line. The cable car pulled off the line entirely when it hit a support pylon, crashed to the ground and then rolled down the mountain until it was stopped by a stand of trees.

The lone survivor, 5-year-old Israeli Eitan Biran, remains hospitalized but conscious.

It is not known why the cable snapped.

The Italian region of Piedmont observed a minute of silence at noon Sunday, and flags are flying at half-staff to mark the moment one week ago when the disaster struck.

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