BRESCIA, Italy -- Two German men went on trial Wednesday on manslaughter charges in connection with a boat collision in Italy’s Lake Garda that killed two young Italians who were also out on the lake that night.
Patrick Kassen, who was allegedly at the helm of the Germans’ motorboat during the June 19 incident, turned himself into Italian authorities in July and has been under house arrest in Italy. He was in court on Wednesday, but his co-defendant, who has remained free in Germany, was not.
The hearing in the Brescia tribunal was adjourned after about an hour until Dec. 16, when the first witnesses are to be heard.
Investigators believe the Germans’ motorboat slammed into the smaller vessel of Umberto Garzarella and Greta Nedrotti, allegedly after the two tourists from Munich had been out drinking. Garzarella was found dead in the boat while Nedrotti’s body was found two days later during a police search of the lake.
The Germans are charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an emergency. Kassen has been quoted by Italian media as saying he didn’t realize the boats had collided. The tourists returned to Germany after the incident but Kassen presented himself to authorities after learning an arrest warrant had been issued.
Relatives of Garzarella and Nedrotti were in court for Wednesday’s hearing, during which they heard Kassen apologize for the first time. Nedrotti's relatives carried 25 white roses, one for each of her 25 years.
Nedrotti's mother, Nadia, said while accidents can happen, the two Germans should have stopped. “If you drive backwards and you hit a wall, you stop and you look at what you’ve done. It was much worse,” she said. “They left and continued to party as if nothing had happened.”
The Germans' insurers have paid the families nearly 3 million euros in total, but Garzarella's father said no amount of money can bring his son back.
“Even if I did receive some money from insurance, what am I supposed to do with it? Where is my wellbeing, my name, my future?" asked Enzo Garzarella. “The name Garzarella doesn’t exist anymore. How am I to continue living? I am dead.”
Nicole Winfield contributed from Rome.