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Marine Crew Blamed in Italy Crash

March 12, 1998

AVIANO, Italy (AP) _ The U.S. military blamed the crew of a Marine jet today for a ski gondola accident that killed 20 people at an Italian ski resort, saying the jet was flying too low and too fast when it sliced through the gondola’s cable.

The crew as well as supervisors now face disciplinary action.

``The cause of the mishap was air crew error,″ the military said in a report, read by Maj. Gen. Michael DeLong, president of the accident investigation board.

``The air crew aggressively maneuvered their aircraft, exceeded the maximum air speed and flew well below″ the allowed limit, the military declared.

The EA-6B Prowler, flown by a four-man crew, severed a cable on the ski lift in northern Italy on Feb. 3, sending 19 skiers and the cable car operator to their deaths in the valley below.

Lt. Gen. Peter Pace, commander of Marine forces in the Atlantic region, said he agreed with the findings of the board to refer the case to a pretrial investigation _ the equivalent of a civilian grand jury.

The board is to consider such possible charges as involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.

Pace also recommended action against supervisory officers for allegedly failing to accurately inform flight crews about the minimum acceptable altitude for the area.

The Marines have said the Prowler clearly was below its authorized limit of 1,000 feet when it hit the lift cables on a clear afternoon. The cable was about 370 feet off the ground at the point of impact.

The crew is also the target of a civilian investigation by Italian authorities.

Update hourly