Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - FROM PA­TRICK HILL in Genoa, Italy

THE last sur­vivor to be saved from the Genoa bridge dis­as­ter tells how he willed him­self to live as he dan­gled badly hurt in the sky for hours – so he would meet his un­born son.

De­liv­ery driver Gian­luca Ardini, 29, was be­ing driven across the city’s Mo­randi Bridge by col­league Luigi Al­ta­donna, 35, when it be­gan sway­ing dur­ing a vi­o­lent storm... then col­lapsed.

Their van had al­ready plunged 120ft amid twisted con­crete and steel when it came to a halt up­side down, 60ft up and caught be­tween two wrecked pil­lars.

“When we came to a stop and I re­alised Luigi had died I felt lucky to still be alive,” he re­calls, chok­ing back tears a year on from the tragedy which killed 43.

“But then I re­alised we were some­how sus­pended in the air and I wasn’t safe yet.

“I looked down and saw that if I fell from there I would die on some spikes I could see be­low me.

“For one mo­ment I thought about giv­ing up and fall­ing asleep – then I re­mem­bered my fam­ily and my un­born son.

“My girl­friend Guilia was eight months preg­nant and I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘I need to stay alive for this baby and my loved ones’.”

Gian­luca was trapped for four hours, un­able to use his arms or legs, un­til he saw res­cuers be­low.

“I think they couldn’t be­lieve there was some­one alive in the van above them,” he re­calls. “I was lay­ing down in the pas­sen­ger footwell up­side down while hang­ing on for my life.

“I was con­scious the whole four hours, but it felt like about four days.


For a mo­ment I thought of giv­ing up and fall­ing asleep. But I thought: I need to live SUR­VIVOR AND NEW DAD

“Ini­tially I couldn’t feel any pain, but then I re­alised I couldn’t use my left arm and I couldn’t move my legs so I thought I must be paral­ysed and be­gan to cry.

“Then I be­gan yelling and press­ing the van’s horn to get their at­ten­tion.

“When they re­alised I was there, peo­ple be­gan shout­ing sup­port from the ground telling me ‘Don’t worry. You’re go­ing to be OK’.

A he­li­copter was brought in to try and lift the van clear. But ex­perts de­cided the bid would fail.

Even­tu­ally, fire­fight­ers ab­seiled to the van, re­leased him and low­ered him to the ground.

At home heav­ily-preg­nant

Gi­u­lia – aware he used the bridge fre­quently – was dis­traught.

Gian­luca said: “My phone was gone so I couldn’t call any­one.

“My girl­friend and my friends all thought I was dead be­cause they were try­ing to phone me but couldn’t get through.

“Her dad even told her, ‘You’re a widow even be­fore your son is born’.”

Thank­fully, the pre­dic­tion was wrong and the cou­ple were re­united in hos­pi­tal.

“The first words I said to Guilia when I came round from the surgery and saw her for the first time were, ‘I love you’.

“I spent 56 days in hos­pi­tal and was re­leased at the end of Oc­to­ber.

“I was the last per­son saved alive and the last to get out of hos­pi­tal,” says Gian­luca. “Pi­etro was born while I was in there. I met him af­ter about a week. I can’t de­scribe that mo­ment – it was in­cred­i­ble.” Hold­ing his 11-month-old son, Gian­luca said: “I’m so happy I sur­vived to be able to be here with him.

“I feel in­cred­i­bly lucky to be alive, but I was de­ter­mined not to die.”

Luigi and 42 oth­ers per­ished, dozens were hurt and 600 were left home­less as the bridge col­lapsed on homes be­low, caus­ing a po­lit­i­cal storm in Italy. A re­port


Gian­luca needed two vi­tal ops dur­ing 56-day stay HOS­PI­TAL

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