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Israeli boy who survived cable car crash improves; relatives’ bodies head home

Pope Francis offers prayers for ‘little Eitan,’ sole survivor of disaster in Italy that killed his parents, brother and grandparents; boy remains sedated with multiple injuries

Flowers and a candle lie in front of the Stresa to Mottarone cable car departure station, in Stresa, northern Italy, May 24, 2021. (Antonio Calanni/AP)
Flowers and a candle lie in front of the Stresa to Mottarone cable car departure station, in Stresa, northern Italy, May 24, 2021. (Antonio Calanni/AP)

The bodies of the five members of the Biran family killed in a cable car crash in northern Italy will be flown to Israel on Wednesday for burial, Israeli Ambassador to Italy Dror Eydar said Tuesday.

The lone survivor of the disaster that killed 14 people, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, remained hospitalized in serious condition in Turin, Italy, with multiple broken bones, though the doctor treating him reported he was showing positive signs after undergoing surgery.

His parents, younger brother, and two great-grandparents were killed.

“Eitan’s flight back to Israel is still a long way off, but we plan to send the coffins tomorrow,” Eydar, who visited the boy in the hospital, told Channel 12.

Pope Francis offered prayers for “little Eitan” and said he was “following his case with trepidation.”

The doctor treating Biran at Turin’s Regina Margherita children’s hospital said Tuesday that medical staff had begun waking him from sedation and that he was responding positively, according to Channel 12 news. The boy earlier had surgery and an MRI, which showed no brain damage or injury to his spinal cord. An aunt and other family members have been with him at the hospital.

Eitan, who resided in Italy with his family, was apparently saved by the embrace of his father, who died when the cabin crashed to the ground, a hospital spokesperson said Monday.

“In order to be able to survive the terrible impact, it is likely that the father, who was of robust build, wrapped his son in a hug,” the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin said, according to the Italian la Repubblica newspaper.

Prosecutors have said they are investigating why the lead cable of the Stresa funicular snapped Sunday while it was bringing sightseers up to the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore in Italy’s northern Piedmont region.

They have said the emergency brake on the supporting cable didn’t engage, which sent the cabin reeling back down the line until it pulled off, crashed to the ground and rolled over down the mountainside until it came to rest against some trees.

Pope Francis also sent a telegram to the local bishop offering his condolences to the families of the dead who, he said were “tragically lost while immersed in the marvels of creation.”

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