US Marines
The crew of the EA-6B Prowler Marine Corps jet involved in a fatal mishap over an Italian ski resort near Cavalese, Italy, appears before a military hearing at Camp LeJeune, April 20. The airmen, (L to R) Capt. Richard J. Ashby, Capt. Joseph P. Schweitzer, Capt. William L. Raney and Capt. Chandler P. Seagraves, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. Ashby, the pilot of the jet, regrets the accident but believes charges in the case are politically motivated, his attorney said today. The four crewmen were charged after their aircraft severed two ski lift cables during a low-altitude flight over the Italian Alps, killing 20 skiers in a gondola car that was sent plunging to the ground.REUTERS

While Italy brutally betrayed India in the Italian marines' case, more than a decade ago, the European country was in a similar situation where India currently is.

In February 1998, US Marine jet crew flew lower than the authorized limit over an Italian town Cavalese in the Alps. The jet cut a cable of a ski-lift ground and sent it crashing down. This incident killed 20 people on board instantly.

Among those who died were three Italians, eight Germans, five Belgians and two Polish. However, the aircraft was minimally damaged. It was reported that the pilot Captain Ashby and navigator Captain Joseph Schweitzer destroyed a videotape that recorded their flight before investigation began. Further probe revealed that the plane flew at only 360 feet above the ground, ignoring the rules that set the minimum altitude for flights at 2,000 feet.

Italians reacted strongly to this revelation and protested against the US Marines. The prosecutors demanded the trial to be held in Italy. But an Italian court said that NATO treaties gave jurisdiction to US military courts.

According to, in a military court at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Captains Ashby and Schweitzer were charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. They claimed that their equipment had malfunctioned and that their maps had not shown the location of the ski-lift. Despite Italian claims that American pilots regularly and intentionally ignored safety regulations to execute risky manoeuvres, the crew was acquitted in March 1999. Ashby and Schweitzer were court-martialled for obstruction of justice for their destruction of the videotape and dismissed from the Marines.

The then-US President issued a public apology to the family of the victims and promised monetary compensation. But in 1999, the US government failed to provide the compensation. Italy later gave around $2 million, which was reimbursed by the US.

This incident seems to have not taught Italy a diplomatic lesson. At present, in India's situation, Italy didn't apologise for their Marines' behaviour, which was the least they could have done.

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