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‘I’m scared,’ Israeli boy said after family killed in Italian cable car

CM 24/05/2021

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Israeli five-year-old Eitan Moshe Biran, the only survivor of the Stresa-Mottarone cable-car crash in northern Italy on Sunday, does not appear to have suffered from permanent brain damage, Italian doctors said Monday.
Some 24 hours after the incident that killed his parents, little brother and great-grandparents, as well as another nine people, physicians expressed cautious optimism about his condition. They said his father’s hug probably protected him.
When rescue workers managed to reach the mountainous area where the cable car had crashed near Lake Maggiore several minutes earlier, they discovered that two children were still alive.
Both of them were rushed on two helicopters to Ospedale Regina Margherita, a children’s hospital in Turin. According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, since they did not have any documents on them, they were admitted as “unknown” patients.
A little later, they were identified as Eitan Moshe Biran and Mattia Zorloni, both of them five years old and with no parents by their side.
The Stresa-Mottarone cable car takes tourists and locals from the town on Lake Maggiore, almost 1,400 meters above sea level, to the top of Mottarone Mountain in 20 minutes. Some 14 people, including five Israelis, died when the cabin plunged to the ground.
Zorloni’s was in critical condition, and he was sedated. He succumbed to his injuries a few hours later.

Biran was rushed into surgery. In the accident, he had sustained head and thoracic traumas and had multiple fractures in his legs.
“I’m scared, leave me alone,” he told the doctors before he was sedated. On Monday night, he remained in intensive care and in critical condition.
Eitan Biran’s father, Amit Biran, 30, had come to Italy to study medicine. He lived with his wife, Tal Peleg, 27, and their two children, Eitan and two-year-old Tom, in Pavia, a town some 35 kilometers south of Milan and renowned for its university, which attracts many Israelis.
Amit, Tal and Tom were killed in the tragedy, together with Tal’s grandparents, the children’s great-grandparents, Barbara Cohen Konisky, 71, and Itshak Cohen, 82, who were visiting them from Israel.
“Amit worked for us in the security service,” said Milo Hasbani, president of the Jewish Community of Milan, the Italian Jewish newspaper Pagine Ebraiche reported. “He studied medicine and was always kind, always smiling. He was an exquisite person.”
“This is a tragedy that leaves us speechless,” he said.
Amit’s sister, Aya Biran, a doctor, also lives in the Pavia region with her husband and two children. She told Italian media outlets she first learned about the tragedy from condolences messages she started receiving from friends.
“At the fourth message, I started to think that another rocket had hit Israel,” she said, Italian daily La Repubblica reported. “I tried to call my brother, and he did not answer. Then I tried to call my sister-in-law, and she also did not answer.”
Eventually, Aya Biran asked the friends what happened. Two hours later, she received an official communication from the Italian authorities.
“At the beginning, we did not know where he was,” Aya said regarding Eitan. “We understood that it was him [the child hospitalized] after we saw that his name did not appear in the list of the victims.”
“My nephew has a head trauma,” she said. “We will need to see how it goes.”
Eitan Biran’s family has asked everyone to respect their privacy and to pray for the boy.
“We all send our deepest condolences to the Biran family in the wake of the tragic disaster in Italy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday night. “We pray for the recovery of Eitan.”
“The State of Israel will assist the family in everything and anything in the aftermath of this difficult tragedy,” he said.
Investigators said on Monday their initial probe into the disaster would look into how the lead cable snapped and why a safety-brake mechanism failed to activate.
“We are starting from the empirical evidence. The cable sheared and the system of safety brakes clearly did not work,” Public Prosecutor Olimpia Bossi said.
Initial reports said the cable that was pulling the cabin up the slope snapped as the gondola neared the end of its 20-minute journey to the top of Mottarone Mountain.
The braking mechanism on a second wire that was bearing the weight of the cabin failed to engage, and the gondola slid backward before apparently hitting a pylon and tumbling to earth, where it rolled over before hitting trees.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini visited the area on Monday and said the government would set up a commission to look into Italy’s worst cable-car disaster since 1998, when 20 people died after a low-flying US warplane accidentally cut through a supporting cable.
“The government, as well all the institutions, are naturally committed to understanding what happened,” he told reporters.
The cable car underwent major maintenance work between 2014 and 2016. Checks were carried out in 2017 and again last year by specialist technicians. The wires were not due to be replaced until 2029, Italian media reported.
The cabin could hold up to 40 people, but it was less than half full because of coronavirus restrictions. The lift station had been closed much of the winter because of coronavirus and had reopened last month.
Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected involuntary manslaughter and negligence.
Reuters contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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