Rigopiano Hotel avalange, one year after: everything has remained untouched

Tears, pain and fighting in the town where victims and suspects are neighbors. “There would have been more help if 29 wolves had died”.

ALL PHOTOS BY Alessandro Falcon


Pubblicato il 12/01/2018
Ultima modifica il 16/01/2018 alle ore 14:55
FARINDOLA (PESCARA)

Every morning, a man wearing camouflaged trousers stations in front of the rubble, what’s left of the Hotel Rigopiano, struck by an avalange last year which killed 29 people. He walks along the red zone, under the uprooted trees, he watches the small trucks ready to clear the area: he sees a long row of chairs, beams, roof tiles, a concrete vase, a piece of a railing. Marinella’s suitcase is still there “, the man whispers.  

 

Since they have opened the road that takes to the Hotel Rigopiano, not one day has gone by without him coming here to pray. His name is Nicola Colangeli, he is 71 years old, and he is a father.  

 

 

On the evening of 17 January, a year ago, there was a blizzard, “he says. More than a half meter snow had already fallen. They ploughed the roads, brushing large piles of snow at the edges of the road. But the heaps collapsed under the weight of the falling snow. That day, there had been already three earthquakes. The hotel owner was very worried. He had already been stuck with customers in the hotel in 2015. He had warned the local and regional authorities. They had told him to remain calm: they guaranteed maximum safety. They would have come to evacuate them soon. At nine o’ clock of the following morning, on January 18th, they were all ready to leave: the cars lined up with their engines on. 

 

 

They were waiting for the turbine, the only machine capable of opening a way in the snow. They waited and waited. They were still waiting. They told me that my daughter was fixing a chamomile behind the bar counter for a client who wasn’t feeling too well. Even though, she actually worked at the hotel’s Spa. She was enthusiastic about her job. She had studied hard, earned more than one certification... That day Marinella wrote to her sister. “A supermarket in Penne has just collapsed”. She commented, “Luckily it was closed. Then, the phone screen showed the message: “ Marinella is writing...”. But her words never arrived. I could not get in touch with her. I was concerned. The phones weren’t working. So I went to Massimiliano Giancaterino, the brother of one of the hotel’s employees, and he told me to try to write from his mobile phone. “We are doing fine”, I wrote her. “And you?” I have never had the courage to ask Massimiliano if he has ever received an answer...”. 

 

 

Mr. Colangeli tries to hold back the tears. “It’s too much pain” he says to apologize. “They could have saved them all. It’s too hard for me. I wake up at 3 a.m. and I’m done sleeping. I always think about how much Marinella may have suffered. My daughter was the last one to be found. 

 

Few other Italian tragedies, such as the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano at 4:48 on January 18,2017, have the power to reveal the indecipherable string of choices and randomness, mistakes and shortcomings, luck and accidents that end up causing a disaster and determine individual’s fate. A year has passed. The eleven survivors try to move on. The Parete spouses, Giampiero and Adriana, are about to publish a book with Mondadori entitled “Il peso della neve” (The weight of snow). 

 

 

 

The phrase chosen for its launch is, “Mom, why aren’t they coming to pick us up?” “I do not know”. But they have found us...right?”. “I do not know”. “Maybe they have not heard us?” “But of course they heard us”. Maybe now they are a bit tired...”. A team of screenwriters is working on the preparation of fiction produced in record time by Pietro Valsecchi. That’s why Gianluca Tanda, chairman of the committee of relatives of the victims of the Hotel Rigopiano, says, “We were astonished”. Giampiero Parete never told us about the book. Maybe he will announce that the money will go into some good work. We hope so. We categorically condemn all attempts to speculate on our tragedy. We feel alone, and deeply disheartened.”  

What remains are 29 deaths and 23 under investigation. Three orphans and all the questions of a year ago. Only with more anger, now. On January 18 in Farindola and Penne, a commemorative mass will be held, followed by a rally organized by the relatives of the victims. “The State has abandoned us” Nicola Colangeli says. We are destroyed. Morally and physically. Nobody helps us. We find all doors closed. My wife applied to retire a year earlier. Her request was denied, even though she is 90% disabled and no longer able to go on with the sleeping pills. What world do we live in? The President of the Republic has never come here. If 29 animals had died, 29 wolves, they would have flocked from all sides. But 29 people died here, 11 of them at work, and even Inail (the National Institute for Insurance against Workplace Accidents and Occupational Disease ed) doesn’t recognize anything to us. Not even the funeral expenses. After this wretch avalanche”. 

 

In the municipality of Farindola, 1,400 inhabitants, which is the closest town to the hotel, victims’ relatives and suspects are neighbors. In some cases, they even share the same surname. Mr. Colangeli lives there, “My doctor is being investigated. The mayor is being investigated, I do know him well. The municipal technician, a relative of mine, is being investigated too. But I’m not angry with them. I’m angry at the Province. They have the biggest blame. When I see a road-mender, I feel angry. Because they were responsible for the roads”. 

 

Investigations are not yet closed. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Pescara will probably charge for crimes ranging from murder to multiple culpable injuries, falsehood and urbanization abuse. The hotel was built, and expanded, where it should not have been: exactly at the bottom of a gorge. The mayor of Farindola did not close the road. Nobody freed the road. The former Prefect Provolo activated the rescue coordination center far too late. The Carabinieri also accuse him of “evident contradictions in the reconstruction of the facts”. And then, there is everything else: the misjudges and the phone calls, one hour before the avalanche, between an employee of the Italian government-owned company deputed to the maintenance – Anas - Carmine Ricca and Paolo D’ Incecco, head of the Province’s road sector:” Oh come on, it’s not that you have to go to Rigopiano? Because if we must free the Spa, then we’re going to take a bath there”. The only turbine capable of freeing the road lied broken in a garage in Pescara, and the other was at work to please someone else. “We went to clean the street of the president “ said the surveyor D’Incecco during those hours. 

 

Curious people now stop in front of the ruins. A frightened gentleman shows up, his name is Pomponio Acentino, he used to bring the clean sheets to the hotel, “I came to see with my own eyes because I didn’t recognize the hotel on TV. The entrance was over there. Before”. 

 

Clearing operations have just begun. Today in Rigopiano there are 14 degrees. Among the rubble, an intact bottle of prosecco. A kitchen knife. “They are taking away also my daughter’s memories” that gentleman dressed in military pants says. That father. Before kneeling to pray. 

 

(Translated by Anna Martinelli) 

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