First hearing in the Morandi Bridge collapse trial
Photo: Antonio Calanni / dpa
The trial has begun almost four years after the deadly collapse of the Morandi Bridge motorway bridge in Genoa, Italy.
59 people have to answer to the court in the northern Italian city for the accident of August 14, 2018 with 43 dead.
The prosecution wants to hear more than 170 witnesses.
In addition, well over 300 civil plaintiffs have been admitted, and more could follow.
"After almost four years of waiting, we have great expectations," said the spokeswoman for the victims' association, Egle 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 in the dock.
Victim lawyer Raffaele Caruso told the AFP news agency that, given the extent of the accident at the time and the number of suspects, it was "one of the most important trials in recent Italian history".
Among other things, the question is whether the bridge has been adequately maintained and its condition adequately checked.
"The Morandi Bridge was a timed bomb," prosecutor Walter Cotugno said.
"You could hear the ticking, but you didn't know when it was going to explode."
According to Cotugno, there is no doubt that those responsible at both the motorway operator and the construction company were aware of this risk.
However, they would have resisted the necessary work on the bridge in order to "secure the dividends" for the shareholders.
After the 2018 collapse, hundreds of people living under the bridge 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.