By Emilio Parodi
GENOA, Italy (Reuters) -An Italian judge on Thursday ordered 59 people, including former Atlantia CEO Giovanni Castellucci, to stand trial over the deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa four years ago, judicial sources told Reuters.
The trial will start in Genoa on July 7, the sources added.
The road bridge, operated by Atlantia’s motorway unit Autostrade per l’Italia, collapsed in the port city on Aug. 14, 2018, killing 43 people and laying bare the dire state of Italy’s crumbling infrastructure.
Paola Vicini, the mother of one of the victims, wept outside the court house on Thursday.
“To the other victims’ families, I say have strength and courage, and we will get justice,” she said.
Judge Paola Faggioni, at the end of a closed-door preliminary hearing that began last October, also accepted the settlement proposed by Autostrade and its sister company SPEA to close the case.
Autostrade had offered to pay 1 million euros ($1.1 million) as a settlement and 26 million euros in compensation to the Italian state for the case, while SPEA had proposed to pay 810,000 euros to settle.
Last June, Italian prosecutors had asked for Autostrade, SPEA and 59 individuals to be sent to trial but the payments mean the companies will not be involved any more.
The individuals, Autostrade and SPEA have maintained their innocence over the bridge collapse. The settlement does not involve any recognition of wrongdoing on the part of the two companies.
Giovanni Paolo Accinni, a lawyer for Castellucci, said on Thursday that the accusations against his client would “fall away like an autumn leaf”.
The collapse caused a dispute between Atlantia and the government that ended last June with the sale of Atlantia’s controlling stake in Autostrade to state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) and investment partners.
In a document on the probe’s findings seen by Reuters, prosecutors said last year that the collapse was triggered by the rupture of the load-bearing cables inside the stay of the bridge’s ninth pillar, which were eaten away by a highly corrosive atmosphere over the 51 years of the bridge’s life.
Managers at Atlantia units Autostrade and SPEA allegedly avoided proper checks of the state of the infrastructure and did not correct serious issues that started to emerge only a few years after the viaduct had opened in 1967, the document said.
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(Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Maria Pia Quaglia and Keith Weir)