The tragic story of Claudio Anastasi, who died in Acitrezza in 2013 due to the fall of the top of the tree.
CATANIA – “Usually, when my father played, I was always there. That evening, unfortunately, no. When it happened they called me right away ”. The June 29, 2013, Claudio Anastasi was playing a Villa Fortunato Acitrezzaa seaside village of Aci Castello, when the top of a palm fell on him, killing him. He had 58 years oldhe was performing at an evening to which he had been invited by Pro Loco of the Municipality of Aci Castello. There public prosecutor of Catania opened an investigation for manslaughter, which ended with an archiving. But Daniele Anastasi and his brother, the victim’s children, did not give up and have sued the Municipality of Aci Castello, in civil proceedings, so that the curtain would not fall on that death. But they were sentenced in the first instance to pay legal fees: beyond 20 thousand euros to be paid in favor of the Castellese municipality. “I lost my father – continues Anastasi – And now I feel fooled. My son, who bears my father’s name, was born two months after the tragedy and has never met his grandfather: it’s absurd that we have to pay “.
The collapse of the palm tree
Villa Fortuna is a public building of the Municipality of Aci Castello. It is located right in front of the stacks and that evening, in 2013, it was hosting a musical evening. One of the artists called to perform, playing the piano in the shade of the palm trees in the garden, was Claudio Anastasi. The chronicles of the time speak of a violent gust of wind, which it would cause the top of the palm to detach and collapse. Right on Anastasi. The tree, however, was not healthy: it was a sick palm, as many have been told in recent years. And it is on the alleged “omitted supervision”Of the Municipality on the state of the plant that the cause of the Anastasi family against the administration is based on. Lost in the first degree, and now waiting to be clarified also in the second degree.
History is reconstructed through judgments, advice and appeals. The first step is the filing request from the Catania prosecutor’s office, motivated by the fact that “the accident could not have been foreseen“. “At the breaking point and in the adjacent areas – we read – the bark appeared to be apparently healthydespite the disease from which the palm was affected ”.
The judiciary had relied on the professor’s advice Giancarlo Polizzi, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Catania. It is to him to write, in his advice, that the “jamb of the palm” (ie the trunk) was straight up to 7.22 meters high and that, starting with 1.35 meters from the breaking point (at almost six months of height) “presented a S curvature“, Plus some narrowing and a slightly cracked bark (one centimeter high and twenty wide). Upon closer examination, however, Professor Polizzi notes that the “symptoms of internal rot, proceeding from top to bottom, they gradually increased until they affected almost the entire internal area of the jamb near the breaking point “. In other words, for the consultant: the palm was rotten inside, contaminated with a fungus (nothing to do with the famous Red awl), but healthy outside.
“On other species of palm trees – continues Polizzi – the pathogen can cause an externally visible symptom. On the date palm, on the other hand, there are no known external symptoms that precede the collapse “. Not the S-curved trunk (“which might as well consider itself as a valuable element“, Writes the consultant) and not even the restrictions. The latter would be yes “structural weaknesses“, But since the palm did not break in their correspondence then” there is no correlation between the crash and the curvature and shrinkage detected. ”
Controls by the Municipality
It is same consultanthowever, to note that the Castellese municipal administration had not done much on the plans of Villa Fortuna, reporting only two interventions: one in the 2011 “Reported with the generic entry cleaning palms”, and one in the 2012 referred to as “disposal of palm branches”. “No action – continues Polizzi – can be seen in relation to preventive interventions aimed at verifying the stability of the plants […] Regarding this problem, the Municipality seems not having taken any action prior to the ominous event of 29 June 2013“. Despite this, however, the expert is clear: only invasive diagnostic tools, and potentially harmful to the plant, could have made the palm disease clear.
Yet someone had noticed. There is one in the proceedings warning dated November 15, 2007 and signed by the administrator of a local adjacent to Villa Fortuna. The man denounced, in a registered letter addressed to the mayor of the Municipality of Aci Castello and to the Ecology office, “the danger existing in the land of Villa Fortuna, where there is an infected and dry palm“. The same owner of the business, heard by the magistrates, then specified that the palm he was talking about was the one that fell on the evening of June 29, 2013. That is seven years after its reporting to the Castellese administration.
For the civil judge, however, “if the experts in charge of the Municipality went to the places to check the palm tree reported (which did not happen), however, they would not have noticed any infection “. The collapse, for the Castellese municipality, would have been a “fluke“, Also due to the strong wind that evening.
The first instance sentence and the appeal
For the civil judge of first instance, “it is not considered a responsibility is recognizable of the Municipality of Aci Castello “. All bad luck, so. Reason for which the request for compensation for damages advanced by the Anastasi family is rejected, which is also ordered to pay legal fees for a total of 20 thousand euros.
The victim’s family members, however, do not stay there and appeal to the appeal. The next hearing is set for tomorrow, September 23. In the document signed by lawyers Alfredo Gambuzza and Sebastiano Sapuppowho defend the victim’s children, the conclusions of the Polizzi report, a key document for both the filing of the public prosecutor’s office both for the civil judge.
“The writer – reads the Appeal – cannot refrain from specifying how the expert report was artfully addressed towards a completely illogical conclusion“. For the biased lawyers, the appointment of the consultant was already “cause for concern”, against whom a “request for recusal was made, for having received news of the appointment of the same professor Polizzi as part consultant of the Municipality of Aci Castello “.
According to the lawyers, the control of the palm by an expert and the use of a tool such as the “rubber hammer” that with a simple tick in the various parts of the trunk, it leads to the identification of internal rot and / or alterations in the structure of the plant itself “. To which any expert consulted by the Municipality would then have had to add the analysis of a series of other characteristics of the plant. “What would have been the result of all these investigations?” Ask the lawyers.
It is always the lawyers, then, who cite a publication by Professor Polizzi about the use of an instrument called a tomograph. “The instrumental examination with tomography made it possible to highlight even modest ones internal destructuring phenomena […] confirmed from the isolation of the fungus on fabric samples taken subsequently ”, is the quote from Polizzi reported by lawyers Gambuzza and Sapuppo. In other words: according to the defenders of the Anastasi family, there were ways to find out in time the disease of the plant, take measures and avoid the crash of the top part on the ground of Villa Fortuna. Done, this, which would bring the civil liability of the Municipality of Aci Castello about the death of Claudio Anastasi during his musical performance.
“A family tragedy”
“This whole story is a continuous wound“, Daniele Anastasi tells LiveSicilia. “I recognized my father from his hands, while he was still on the ground and it was clear that there was nothing more to do – he adds – I just thought it was not possible”. The memories of that evening then become clouded and disappointments are added to the pain: “The investigation of the prosecutor that is filed, the first degree civil sentencein 2020, which condemns us to pay the costs, the feeling of not being able to get justice… ”.
And, most of all, the feeling that “my father could be saved: the Municipality then intervened on other palm trees. They placed ropes around the logs, fixed the top parts so that they could not collapse to the ground. Was five euros worth of ropes enough to save my father’s life? – adds Anastasi – The future of our family was destroyed that evening and justice appears so far from a citizen who has done nothing wrong: my father was there to brighten up the evening of others “.
The second degree civil trial is expected to close shortly. And, if the first instance sentence is confirmed, the cost to the family risks being even more expensive than the 20 thousand euros already foreseen. “In the car I still have the last CD recorded by my father. They are covers of Pooh, he was a big fan – he concludes – We had one small company that organizes musical events, which we then closed. I was in charge of the safety. It is ironic that no one ever got hurt at the concerts we organized. And the only incident we witnessed was the one that killed him ”.