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Cablecar crashed in Piemonte

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Also they appear to be fitted in the photo in this post https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=155672&start=40#4784653 as discussed
If you look at the very top of the mechanism, they are also dirty implying they may have been there some time.
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Bella2015 wrote:
https://gift.enthuse.com/cf/eitan

Not sure if it is allowed but the above page is fundraiser for a 5 year boy a sole surviving member of his family whose parents, grandparents and younger brother have died in this tragedy. ( l don’t have any personal connection with the family)

Many thanks for the link.
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The very fact they were on the maintenance platform and not on the shelf in the tool store, suggests they were there for convenience, ie they were having a lot of problems with the system and kept them handy to save a trip to stores.

During my apprenticeship, we were taught from the first year in the training school that we were all in a "go to jail" role. Management after a very low level, could not hold a maintenance certification qualification, removing their ability to "pen things off". That allowed the maintenance staff to have confidence in the system and where justified, say no. I found that I was usually backed up by maintenance management but came under a lot of pressure from customer service staff who had little understanding of our statutory responsibilities.

When I started working with certain European companies, the staff had no idea of their level of responsibility and exposure. They all thought they were covered by the company.

My gut reaction, having worked in Italy, is that the maintenance guys were told to install the brake gags by people who thought they were higher up the food chain and believed that they had the authority to do so. During my time in Italy and elsewhere, maintenance staff were usually seen as a lower form of life and treated like such.

Unless there is a culture where maintenance staff are educated of their responsibilities and empowered to say no to commercial pressure then you will have events like this.

I would also imagine that the insurers of the cable car company are taking a keen interest in outcome of the investigations and looking at their liability policy wording very closely.
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davidof wrote:
I will have to see if I have any other photos of the Mottarone cable car from when I took it last. The photo you posted doesn't really show how steep the climb is, they must have used a fish eye lens but you are climbing from Stresa at 300 meters to Mottarone at 1400 m over a fairly short distance and the cable car is on quite a steep haul, especially near the top.


1. Please do.

2. That's not exactly right. The accident happend on the second section, only a handful of meters away from the mountain station. There is video footage from a camera installed at the top station. The passengers were already preparing to debark. The incline between the top and the last pylone (from which the car then jumped off going backwards) is only about 14.5 degrees.

ringingmaster wrote:
@Bergmeister, Its all explained in the above posts. The red brackets you can see sitting on the platform that allows an operator access to where the car hangs onto the wire.


That's right. Actually, it's rather recent that they are painted red. There are pictures around from five years ago on which they appear to be painted brown or grey. But sitting on the maintenance deck nevertheless.

philwig wrote:

If they're lying on the platform, that's ok...


No, that already constitutes malpractice, as explained above. Consider an emergency brake and these parts flying around!

You're right about the rest.
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davidof wrote:

@Timc, there is hardly anyone around at the moment. A lot of the hotels are still closed due to Covid, I doubt they needed to run the cable car at a higher rate than usual, even in high summer it is not really heaving. I expect, like at the Pic du Bure, the brake was interfering with operations in some way.


It would have been heaving today as the Giro was due to go there. Giro changed their route today to avoid the area out of respect.
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@Gilberts Fridge, "The very fact they were on the maintenance platform and not on the shelf in the tool store, suggests they were there for convenience, ie they were having a lot of problems with the system and kept them handy to save a trip to stores."

I could see why they would be located as such (possibly secured? ) as practice protocols may require availability in emergency situations to be able to deploy personnel to fit them when required.
In other words, if needed it's possible to have the cars somewhere out on the line at which access is restricted. They of course should have direction in place to facilitate or not.

"Unless there is a culture where maintenance staff are educated of their responsibilities and empowered to say no to commercial pressure then you will have events like this."
Ultimately the commercial aspect should be deflected by the maintenance "team" to force the proper repair of primary brake device and the budget to carry that out.
It's a powerful tool when someone "outside" of that team requests that these things should be overridden, even temporarily, if they are asked to sign away other's responsibilities to themselves. Ordinarily that has significant impact in their thinking.
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@ski3, I would be very surprised that an important tool such as this was stored open to the elements. In a box on the platform perhaps but not out in the open.

I would suggest that the brake over ride tool should be classed as a controlled tool subject to its own inspection regime, however basic that is.
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@Tristero, very interesting detective work and explanation. Have you contacted the prosecuting authorities in Italy regarding the photograph, on the offchance that they perhaps haven’t noticed?
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Speculative on my part as I've not "insider" knowledge but it's routine to keep, and sensible too, emergency provision at point of use in many procedures. Car spare wheel, fire extinguisher etc, although of different categories than brake overide the logic is similar for deployment and sensible if you are to initiate timely actions.

The original manufacturing and design recognized this in providing method and location on the brake components to accept and deploy the device. But crucially it's a separate component that has to be absolutely intentional in it's installation, not in any way accidentally left "switched" in place by such as a lever etc.
Whomever put them there has not only been trained to deploy and fix them to hold the brake open, but just as much exactly what they are for and their function.

The barrier to climbing up there and putting them in place, then intentionally leaving them there is simply one of ultimate responsibility.

Surely it would also have a starting inspection to sign off that would cover adequately the full operational aspects of the system?
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Timc wrote:
davidof wrote:

@Timc, there is hardly anyone around at the moment. A lot of the hotels are still closed due to Covid, I doubt they needed to run the cable car at a higher rate than usual, even in high summer it is not really heaving. I expect, like at the Pic du Bure, the brake was interfering with operations in some way.


It would have been heaving today as the Giro was due to go there. Giro changed their route today to avoid the area out of respect.


It was going over the Mottarone, the road is closed currently so they had no choice but to reroute but the area is far from "heaving" at the moment. We were due to be there this week but had to cancel due to Covid (did you hear about that, it is making foreign holidays difficult at the moment). The giro was just passing through so you won't get much more than locals turning out to watch.
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With ski resorts having missed out so much last season I was wondering a couple of weeks ago whether this would impact on lift safety. It’s a chilling thought. It’s good that there is the threat of such a massive prison sentence to dissuade people though it doesn’t seem to have put these people off. Madness.
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In Davidoff's photo, the brake forks seem to be just lying on the platform. If the intention had been for them to be on board and ready for use, wouldn't they have been stored in a cage or on brackets rather than left loose where they would be a trip hazard?
Nevertheless, the forks were in use during "normal" service which speaks volumes about the diligence of the daily sefety checks.
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bambionskiis wrote:
With ski resorts having missed out so much last season I was wondering a couple of weeks ago whether this would impact on lift safety. ...

+1. Unexpected resort closures March 2020; routine end-of-season maintenance possibly missed; equipment then unused for up to 15 months, with the possibility of rust / seizures; pressure to reopen asap; etc. Shouldn't happen, but easy to see how it can.

Glad I am not thinking of an early season trip this winter.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Ski areas won’t have missed their maintenance. I’m confident they will have run their systems to ensure effective operation. They’ll know that just Walking away will generate more work and expense in terms of brake seizures and flat batteries.
In this case it looks as though there has been a systematic long term neglect of the safety systems. Hauling people up into the air is a serious business which demands meticulous procedure and which most ski areas will understand.
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It appears the 3 people arrested initially are all blaming each other https://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/seilbahnunglueck-lago-maggiore-mottarone-italien-ermittlungen-1.5308095 (you will have to use Google translate). Two of them have now been released, it seems the investigation is going to take some time, also clear the cable car had had ongoing faults which were ignored.
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Just listened to Times radio news and they reported that the three people who had been arrested have been released and the blame is going on a maintenace man... Puzzled
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@DaveD, no, everyone is blaming everyone else! Gabriele T. stated that he heard strange noises during the morning 'control ride' but left the forks in place because the gondola had been causing trouble for some time. Words fail me.
It's still completely unclear what caused the caable to fail. Had been tested by Leitner in November, with no faults found
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Gabriele T. , who is the service manager, has been working for the cable car company for 36 years. The other two, the general manager and a Leitner engineer have been released from custody on the basis that the investigators felt that Gabriele T. was simply blaming everyone else to deflect blame from himself, he has been placed under house arrest. He was quoted as saying (via google)

Quote:
T. had confessed to having consciously and several times deactivated the brakes on the gondola, which had been defective for a long time, because otherwise the lift would have had to be closed. Everyone was privy to it, he claimed, and nobody wanted to shut down.
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<shrug> Culture comes from the top, but unless they can illustrate what they did to prevent the obvious consequences of those brake disablers being in
place, then I'd say they are all obviously guilty of manslaughter through their negligence. The brake-disablers are red so anyone can see them - we all can -
so no one can claim they did not know what they were doing.

However we don't know the actual provenance of those photographs.
They could have been show to illustrate the usage of the brake disabler things: they may not be shots of the operational service.

Even so, if you run a business which kills people, then I think that's on you.
For the minions, if your boss pressures or directs you to something risky,
then you need to cover yourself by raising your concerns and possibly also to quit.
The alternative is to stand in the dock with the excuse "I was only following orders", which won't work.
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As suspected on here, it does look like the brake disablers were in use for many years before this accident. They can be seen on videos made by a Swiss filmmaker, between 2014 and 2018:
TT wrote:
Years before the gondola accident near Lake Maggiore, the cable car could have been tampered with. This is indicated by video recordings made by a Swiss amateur filmmaker from 2014 to 2018 that are available to ZDF. So-called forks can be seen on it, which override the emergency brakes. The video recordings could show that the emergency brakes had been blocked for years.

Out of technical interest, the Swiss filmed the cable car system on Mount Mottarone three times in 2014, 2016 and 2018. In all three cases, the forks that put the emergency brake out of operation can be seen.

https://www.tt.com/artikel/30792987/seilbahn-am-lago-maggiore-koennte-seit-jahren-manipuliert-worden-sein
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Wow, I bet there are a few lift companies urgently changing the way things are done as a result of this.
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@Scarlet, so they were regularly operating recklessly for years with the emergency brake disabled? Shocked That makes their actions even more egregious in my view.
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@Alastair Pink, yes, that does appear to be the case. It also counters any excuses about shortcuts being due to corona and the financial situation of the past year.
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Terrible reckless behavior, I wonder if they removed them for the manufacturers lift inspections...
I'm certainly going to be taking more of an interest in the workings of the lifts I use. How does the safety brake work on a chairlift out of interest?
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I think the idea of blaming the maintenance engineer must now go out of the window.

These items are obviously painted bright red for a reason - so that they can easily be seen.

There is no way that these could have been in place for so long (and possibly be removed for inspections?) without somebody in authority being aware and asking questions.

Incidentally, how often would a manufacturers inspection take place, and would it include some running tests, and a test of the emergency brakes? - both engaging and disengaging correctly?

If these were left in situ due to problems with the emergency brakes engaging when not required, this might have shown in such tests.
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@brianatab, was wondering about that myself. Leitner have stated that they checked the cables and carried out maintenance on the system last November. Nothing unusual was reported. So did the operators remove the brake forks for this, or was Leitner in on the secret? If so, they are in seriously deep trouble!
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In normal operation how does the emergency brake trigger?
I presume it is speed regulated / sensitive in some way.
Is overriding the emergency brake to allow overspeed operation rather than to overcome some persistent intermittent fault ?
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There will, without doubt, be a maintenance and defect log. The permanent locking off of the safety breaking system really is beyond belief. Independent inspection would surely have been required, at least yearly.
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Quote:

I think the idea of blaming the maintenance engineer must now go out of the window.


Whilst I agree it would have been a cheap shot by the senior management to try this, he/she is not completely absolved. AFAIA whistleblowers are protected in Italy, so if this really has been going on for years................
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Given that all lifts have to have regular inspections I too have been wondering about Leitner's role in all this, I would assume their lawyers are spending hours poring over the various paperwork. One of the people originally arrested is a Leitner engineer though he has since been released. If this has been going on for years, it becomes difficult to sustain that the emergency brake was only "enabled" for the inspection visits and disabled at other times.

@pieman666, Chairlifts generally work somewhat differently to cable cars (though given the plethora of different designs there might be exceptions), whether the fixed or detachable type there is one cable which combines the function of support and propulsion. In the extremely unlikely event (I dont believe it has ever happened except for plane collisions) of a catastrophic failure of the cable outside of the top or bottom stations this would cause the chairs to fall to the ground. There are brake mechanisms built in to the top & bottom stations (though vary in different designs) but they could not help with such a break. Clearly whilst such an event is not impossible it is extremely unlikely, far less likely than a plane crash and by orders of magnitude less likely than a fatal car crash. With any lift installed in recent times the tension and length of the cable are monitored (the length of the cable will vary with temperature, you will see large weights over pulleys at the bottom station to keep the tension constant) , if there are any changes outside the specified parameters the lift would shut down as this might indicate a problem with the cable.
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Thanks @munich_irish useful information, I was also thinking about the Georgian chair lift that ran backwards out of control.
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ringingmaster wrote:
In normal operation how does the emergency brake trigger?
I presume it is speed regulated / sensitive in some way.
Is overriding the emergency brake to allow overspeed operation rather than to overcome some persistent intermittent fault ?


Afaik by loss of drive cable tension.

Scarlet wrote:
@Tristero, very interesting detective work and explanation. Have you contacted the prosecuting authorities in Italy regarding the photograph, on the offchance that they perhaps haven’t noticed?


Isn't it? Not by me though... Cool The Italian authorities are well in the know by now. Wether they appreciate that isn't completely clear.


What's still up in the air is the role LEITNER plays in all this mess. They are sueing now as well, but... The cable car is owned by the township of Stresa or by the region of Piemont that isn't clear as of now (ugly legal battle right ahead). Although, according to Italian media, the cable car has always been highly prosperous (How could it be otherwise in this place?), the owners apparently were not. Anyway, they didn't manage to build up reserves for the major overhaul which was due in 2014 and cost €4.4 million. So they developed a PPP scheme. LEITNER itself came on board and is now afaik part-owner of the company which runs the operations, Ferrovie del Mottarone. The chief engineer - the guy who claims to have known nothing and this was all the doing of his rogue head maintenance guy (which in itself is unimagineable) - is a LEITNER employee. Unfortunately for him and for the CEO of the Ferrovie del Mottarone there is kind of a paper trail: According to the maintenance book LEITNER has been very recently commissioned to work on the mechanical parts of the brakes (in march 2021) as well as specifically on the hydraulic system of the emergency suspension cable brakes (on may 3rd 2021!). Obviously thingy still no worky afterwards.

There is more to come. Question is do they want to go there.
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@munich_irish, way back in 1987 a chairlift collapsed in Luz Ardiden in the French Pyrenees. It was a new lift and 5 people died as well as lots of injuries. I’d been skiing there the week before and the authorities seemed to be running some commissioning tests with large weights. As I recall the cause of the accident was the concrete counter weight breaking off and releasing all the tension in the cable. I think the investigators discovered that there had been some suspicious dealing in the purchase of what turned out to be in an appropriate concrete mix for the job.
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Not sure how accurate this is https://montblanc.press/en/articles/51/326/ but a list of various cable car & lift accidents. There are very few that involve a broken cable and those that did happen are generally many years ago before the introduction of contemporary inspection regimes. @pieman666, that was down to poor maintenance, in normal operation a brake should engage if the lift starts to run "backwards".
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munich_irish wrote:
...@pieman666, that was down to poor maintenance, in normal operation a brake should engage if the lift starts to run "backwards".


I thought that one turned out to be one emergency brake had been disabled a long time prior to the accident and a second safety removed more recently (Trust me, it's OK, there's another one anyway...) then the drive gear failed. Any one of the three should stop it freewheeling.
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ringingmaster wrote:
In normal operation how does the emergency brake trigger?
I presume it is speed regulated / sensitive in some way.
Is overriding the emergency brake to allow overspeed operation rather than to overcome some persistent intermittent fault ?


I'm totally guessing, but presume the 'pull' from the drive cable opens the emergency brake and allows the car to run on the support cable. In the event of the drive cable failing, the 'pull' ceases and the brake auto engages (unless, as in this case, it is locked open).

If I'm wrong (totally or partially) then I'm sure someone in the know will correct.
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