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Italy: Bridging process begins four years after tragedy

#Italy #Bridging #process #begins #years #tragedy

The trial in the case of the Genoa bridge that collapsed in 2018, which killed 43 people, begins Thursday in Italy, involving 59 defendants charged with manslaughter and undermining road safety.

The Morandi Bridge, part of a major highway connecting Italy and France, gave way four years ago in torrential rain on August 14, sending dozens of vehicles and their passengers into the abyss.

The tragedy highlighted the state of Italy’s transport infrastructure. Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI), which operates almost half of the country’s motorway network, has been accused of failing to maintain the bridge, which was inaugurated in 1967.

For one of the prosecutors, Walter Cotugno, “the Morandi Bridge was a time bomb”.

“You could hear the ticking, but you didn’t know when it was going to explode,” he said in February.

Cotugno believes the directors of Autostrade and maintenance engineering company Spea “were aware of the risk of collapse” but remained reluctant to fund works in order to “preserve dividends” from shareholders.

Most of the defendants summoned by the court in Genoa are executives and technicians from the two companies.

Among them are then-General Manager of Autostrade Giovanni Castellucci, former Spea boss Antonino Galata and officials from the Ministry of Infrastructure.

– ‘Recognition of Responsibility’ –

While Castellucci’s lawyers believe the charges “will fall like an autumn leaf,” prosecutors are counting on their key witness, Roberto Tomasi, Castellucci’s successor and senior Autostrade executive since 2015.

At the time of the tragedy, Autostrade was part of the Atlantia group, controlled by the wealthy Benetton family. Under pressure from the political class and public outrage, the family gave up its stake to the state last May.

Though their former directors are in the dock, Autostrade and Spea will escape court thanks to an out-of-court settlement with prosecutors that will see a €29 million payment to the state.

For Raffaele Caruso, lawyer for the Committee of Families of Victims of the Morandi Bridge, this agreement represents “a first acknowledgment of responsibility” on the part of the two companies.

“This is one of the most important trials in recent Italian history in terms of the number of defendants, the scale of the tragedy and the wound inflicted on an entire city,” he told AFP.

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