One of the rare survivors of a deadly bridge collapse in Italy has described “apocalyptic scenes” after the structure came crashing down.
The tragedy in Genoa four years ago left 43 people dead and sparked a year-long national emergency
Davide Capello, 37, plummeted 40 metres in his white Volkswagen Tiguan, which was cushioned by tonnes of debris below,
Remarkably, he emerged from the tragedy almost unscathed, apart from back and shoulder pain “which returns from time to time”.
“It was as if a bomb had fallen on the bridge … an apocalyptic scene,” he told AFP, recalling the moment a 210-metre section of the Morandi bridge gave way on 14 August amid heavy rainfall.
On the morning of the disaster, Davide, who was a firefighter in Savona for several years and ex-professional football player, was on his way to Genoa to renew his membership card at the Genoa football club where he trains young goalkeepers
“I went through the tunnel before the Morandi bridge. Then, halfway through the bridge, I heard a thud behind me and saw the road crumble, all the cars in front of me plunged into the void,” he said.
“At a certain moment I felt propelled in the air and I fell with the whole bridge, with the nose of my car pointing downwards, at the time I really thought I was going to die.”
What happened next he called a “miracle”, believing there was “no other explanation” for it.
“A cloud of dust surrounded me when I landed inside a part of the bridge which covered me without flattening me.”
This chunk of the bridge “accompanied” Davide as debris cascaded towards the ground, which he linked to a protective air bubble.
His car landed in a pile of rubble in the yard of a factory just below the bridge. All of its windows were shattered, but the cabin — and Davide — remained intact.
The fall “only lasted a few seconds but it seemed like an eternity to me,” he said.
Davide — who has had to seek psychological support to overcome his trauma — remained trapped in the car for some twenty minutes, searching in vain for his mobile phone.
But, thanks to the Bluetooth screen of his SUV, he managed to warn firefighters about the catastrophic incident, and assure his parents and girlfriend that he was safe and well.
“Those were moments of panic, of terror. Then, when I heard the first voices of the rescuers, I mustered up my courage and managed to get out through the rear window and climb on the rubble,” he recalled.
In his surroundings, Davide said “there reigned an almost unreal silence”.
“It was like a parallel reality, I was walking without understanding. I only understood what happened when I saw the collapsed bridge from further away,” he added.
Hospitalised for a few days and in shock for a long time, Davide gradually resumed his work as a firefighter and started driving again, although it took him more than a year to brave the new, replacement bridge, completed in August 2020.
When asked by AFP reporters if he would attend the trial on the Morandi bridge drama which begins on Thursday in Genoa, Davide replied: “No, certainly not. I prefer to move forward in life.”
Four years after the tragedy, he still works as a football coach, spotting young talent at the Ruffinengo stadium in Savona (north-west), 50 km (31 miles) from Genoa in northern Italy.
Built between 1963 and 1967, the Morandi bridge was a critical road artery of the European Route E80, which linked Italy and France.
It collapsed during a rainstorm due to structural failure, leading to a flurry of accusations of responsibility in Italy.
All remnants of the ruined bridge were demolished in August 2019.