ONE YEAR ON..
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