Eitan Biran, Lone Survivor of Italian Cable Car Crash, Is Subject of Custody Battle

Eitan Biran, Lone Survivor of Italian Cable Car Crash, Is Subject of Custody Battle

ROME — Eitan Biran, the lone survivor of a cable car crash in May that killed 14 people, including his parents, has become the focus of a bitter custody battle after his paternal relatives in Italy accused his maternal grandfather of flying the boy to Israel without their permission over the weekend.

On May 23, Eitan’s parents, a younger sibling, and two great-grandparents visiting from Israel were killed when a cable snapped as the car approached its destination on a ridge overlooking the Lago Maggiore in Piedmont. The car slid backwards before crashing into a mountainside. Eitan, a 6-year-old boy, was the only survivor.

The family drama, which has gripped Italy and is being played out publicly in Italian and international media, is just one part of the fallout from the disaster, which struck a small lakeside community whose economy was devastated by the pandemic.

Several people, including the cable car operator and the owner of the company that managed it, are being investigated but have not been charged.

An Italian court in Turin granted custody of the boy to his aunt, Aya Biran, in May, while he was still in the hospital with critical injuries. According to Ms. Biran’s lawyer, Armando Simbari, despite his improvement, he still requires medical care, both physical and psychological.

However, the boy’s paternal relatives objected to the custody decision, and his grandfather, Schmulik Peleg, hired lawyers in August to formally challenge it, according to Paolo Sevesi, one of the lawyers.

According to Mr. Simbari, a civil court ruled in August that the boy could not leave Italy unless he was with Ms. Biran.

Because of the ongoing investigation, Mr. Simbari said he couldn’t comment on how the boy was brought to Israel. However, he accused Mr. Peleg of using his visiting rights to “de facto organize an international abduction of a minor.”

According to Mr. Sevesi, who confirmed Italian media reports, the aunt filed a complaint with the prosecutors office, and Mr. Peleg was placed under investigation for kidnapping on Monday.

The prosecutor did not respond to requests for comment, and Mr. Peleg could not be reached for comment immediately.

The aunt’s lawyer, Mr. Simbari, stated that Eitan had lived in Italy since he was a year old and held both Italian and Israeli citizenship. The boy said his mother tongue was Italian, but he also spoke Hebrew.

“We are very concerned because this child was torn away from a familiar environment, resulting in a second trauma after the one he experienced in May,” Mr. Simbari explained.

From Tel Aviv, Jonathan Shamir contributed reporting.

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Eitan Biran, Lone Survivor of Italian Cable Car Crash, Is Subject of Custody Battle