MILAN, Jan 11 — An Italian court today cleared the head of the Autostrade motorway operator of responsibility in the deaths of 40 people in a 2013 coach crash, and jailed several others.
Prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence for Giovanni Castellucci, 59, for failing to maintain a guard rail corroded by salt which allowed the coach to plunge 30m in one of Europe’s worst road accidents.
“Shame! This isn’t justice!” victims’ relatives shouted as the verdict was read out at the courtroom in the southern town of Avellino, Italian media reported.
The tourist bus, which was carrying around 50 pilgrims who had visited a Catholic shrine, rammed several cars after its brakes failed on a bend near Avellino on July 28, 2013.
After careening down the motorway without brakes for about a kilometre, the driver attempted to stop on the hard shoulder but the viaduct’s safety rail collapsed and the coach plunged into the void.
After a two-and-a-half year trial of 15 suspects, the court jailed several over the disaster, including the coach’s owner Gennaro Lametta, for 12 years.
Lametta, the brother of the coach driver who died in the crash, was convicted of manslaughter and for failing to maintain the coach’s brakes.
The court also jailed Antoinetta Ceriola from the Naples vehicle registration service for eight years for forging the coach’s safety certificate.
Four former Autostrade employees responsible for that stretch of motorway were jailed for five years for negligence, and two others for six years.
The US-imported Jersey concrete barrier, corroded by salt used to keep the road ice-free in winter months, shattered on impact, leaving the bus to sail over the edge.
Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy’s motorway network, has come under huge pressure since a bridge it maintained in Genoa collapsed in August last year, killing 43 people.
Castellucci is under investigation for the collapse of the Morandi bridge, which had suffered from structural problems for decades, prompting severe criticism from engineering experts. — AFP