5 Israelis killed in Italian cable car crash confirmed as members of one family
Amit Biran and Tal Peleg-Biran died along with their 2-year-old son and Tal's grandparents in disaster in Piedmont region; surviving son, 5, hospitalized in critical condition
Five Israelis from one family, including a 2-year-old child, were among the 14 people killed Sunday when a cable car plummeted to the ground in Italy’s Piedmont region, Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Monday morning.
The ministry said in a statement that Amit Biran, 30, his wife Tal Peleg-Biran, 26, and their 2-year-old son Tom Biran, who lived in northern Italy, and Peleg-Biran’s grandparents Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen of Tel Aviv, 71 and 81, were all among the dead.
Another son, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the accident, was critically injured and is currently hospitalized in Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital.
The Foreign Ministry said that his aunt, Amit Biran’s sister, was with him and other family members were expected to fly out from Israel on Monday.
The Israeli embassy in Rome said it was working with the family to bring the bodies of the deceased to Israel in the coming days.
The couple, Amit and Tal, lived in the city of Fabia in the province of Lombardy in northern Italy. Amit studied medicine there and worked as a security guard at a Jewish school in the city.
The president of the nearby Milan Jewish community, Milo Hatzbani, told Israel’s Army Radio that the accident was “a great disaster.”
“I know the father well, I spoke to him last Friday. He told me he decided to go for a trip with the children and with the grandparents who came from Israel,” Hatzbani said.
Amit Biran’s sister, Aya Biran, said that Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen had decided to visit the family in Italy to get away from the tense security situation in Israel during hostilities with Hamas over the past two weeks.
“Yitzhak and Barbara wanted to see the great-grandchildren. Rockets were falling in Israel; they thought, ‘What can happen in Italy?'” she said. They had arrived in Italy on May 19 to visit their granddaughter and great-grandchildren.
The accident took place in Stresa, a resort town on the shore of Lake Maggiore in Italy’s Piedmont region, the Alpine rescue service said on Twitter. The cable car was believed to have fallen around 15 meters (50 feet), according to Italian media.
The 20-minute cable car ride, popular with tourists, links Stresa with the 1,500-meter (4,900-foot) summit of the Mottarone mountain and offers spectacular views of the Alps.
The Italian ministry of infrastructure said in a statement that the accident appeared to have been caused by a ruptured cable near the top of the route.
“It was a terrible, terrible scene,” Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor, told Italy’s SkyTG24.
A local hospital spokesman said the two Biran children had been seriously injured and taken by helicopter to a pediatric hospital in Turin. Tom died after several attempts to restart his heart failed and “there was nothing more we could do,” said hospital spokesman Pier Paolo Berra.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed their “profound grief,” offering condolences to the victims’ families, as regional as well as EU leaders expressed their sorrow and shock.
The disaster raised questions anew about the quality and safety of Italy’s transport infrastructure.
Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini announced a commission of inquiry had already been formed to investigate the “technical and organizational causes” of the accident, while prosecutors will focus on any criminal blame. Giovannini was heading to the site Monday along with the civil protection chief to inspect the damage.
The transport ministry said a preliminary check of the cable line’s safety and maintenance record show that the whole lift structure underwent a renovation in August 2016, and that a maintenance check was performed in 2017.
Late last year, inspections were performed on the cables themselves, including magnetic inspections on the primary cables of the lift: the cable that pulls the cabin up the mountain, the support cable that holds the car and the rescue cables. In December another visual check was performed, the ministry said.
The funicular line is popular with tourists and locals alike to scale Mottarone, which reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks several picturesque lakes and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region.
The mountain hosts a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster, and the area also has mountain bike paths and hiking trails.