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U.S. hearing begins in cable-car disaster

SHARE U.S. hearing begins in cable-car disaster

A Marine squadron commander testified his officers were briefed about altitude restrictions more than a month before a Marine jet sliced a gondola cable in the Italian Alps, sending 20 people to their deaths.

Lt. Col. Richard Muegge was the first witness at the hearing that began Monday for the pilot and navigator of the EA-6B Prowler.The hearing, expected to last through the week, will determine whether Capt. Richard Ashby, 30, of Mission Viejo, Calif., and Capt. Joseph P. Schweitzer, 30, of Westbury, N.Y., should be court-martialed for the Feb. 3 tragedy.

After a similar hearing in May, military judge Lt. Col. Ronald Rodgers put off a decision regarding the jet's backseat crew - Capt. William L. Raney, 26, of Englewood, Colo., and Capt. Chandler P. Seagraves, 28, of Nineveh, Ind. - until reviewing the evidence concerning Ashby and Schweitzer.

Rogers' recommendation on whether there should be further action then goes to Lt. Gen. Peter Pace, commanding general for Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic, who makes the final decision.

The cable severed by the jet was strung 370 feet above the ground. Muegge testified that all squadron officers were told of altitude restrictions.