During a storm, an important motorway bridge suddenly collapses in Genoa, killing dozens of people. To this day, it is not clear who is responsible for this. But the survivors now have hope.

With tears in their eyes, people lie in their arms in front of the courthouse in the northern Italian city of Genoa. A woman is wearing a black T-shirt with a photo of a young man on it.

Friends and families had to wait almost four years for this day before the trial of the deadly collapse of the “Ponte Morandi” motorway bridge could begin.

hope for justice

“It’s the last hope for justice that we have,” said a relative who lost her partner in the accident on August 14, 2018 with 43 dead, on Italian television. The images of the collapsed bridge section with a truck that had stopped just short of the edge went around the world at the time.

The opening hearing in the morning didn’t last long. Other parties had applied for their admission as civil plaintiffs in the proceedings, and the court had terminated future negotiations, reported Egle Possetti from the association of the victims’ relatives afterwards. Their association also submitted another application as a civil party. The process continues on September 12.

170 witnesses are to be heard

Because of the high demand, three halls were available, one of which was a tent. 59 people have to answer for the accident. The prosecution wants to hear more than 170 witnesses. In addition, well over 300 civil plaintiffs have been admitted, and more may follow.

“After almost four years of waiting, we have great expectations,” said Possetti. “We expect that this trial will bring about justice, that it will clarify the reasons and accountability that led to the killing of our loved ones, otherwise the death of our loved ones will be useless and they will not be able to rest in peace.”

Observers assume that the first verdicts may not be known for two years. The accused include experts and former executives from the company that was responsible for the maintenance work, as well as ex-employees from the Ministry of Infrastructure and officials. They are accused of multiple manslaughter, abuse of office and omission. Two companies – the maintenance company and the motorway operator – were able to negotiate a payment of around 30 million euros before the trial and are therefore not charged.

Hundreds of people became homeless

“I think everyone wants to be able to have certainty about the truth,” said lawyer Giovanni Accinni, who represents an accused ex-functionary of the highway operator. “Today we are beginning to speak about facts, outside of a media-savvy, falsified and twisted trial that has ignored the reason for the collapse since the beginning,” said his lawyer colleague Guido Carlo Alleva. He referred to the expert’s report, according to which the bridge is said to have had construction defects.

After the 2018 collapse, hundreds of people living under the viaduct were left homeless. The reason for the collapse is suspected to be damage that was not discovered due to lack of or insufficient maintenance work. A new bridge was later built on the site over the Polcevera stream, inaugurated in August 2020 under the name of San Giorgio Bridge.