Israeli boy critically hurt in Italy cable car crash communicating with aunt

5-year-old Eitan Biran, sole family member to survive, will be moved out of intensive care soon

The Biran family, with Eitan on the right. (Courtesy)
The Biran family, with Eitan on the right. (Courtesy)

The Israeli boy who survived last weekend’s deadly cable car crash in the Italian mountains is awake, communicating and will soon be moved out of intensive care, the hospital treating him said Thursday.

Five-year-old Eitan Biran has been in critical condition since the cabin he and his family were in plunged to the ground on Mount Mottarone, killing the other 14 people inside, including his parents, younger brother and great-grandparents.

Eitan and his parents had been living in Italy.

“Eitan is now awake and conscious in the intensive care unit, speaking with his aunt and looking around,” a spokesperson for Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital said.

“From a clinical point of view, he is still in a critical condition due to his thoracic and abdominal trauma and the fractures to his limbs. In the next few days he will be taken out of intensive care and transferred to a hospital ward,” the spokesperson added.

Rescuers work by the wreckage of a cable car after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region, northern Italy, as seen from the aerial photograph, May 23, 2021. (Vigili del Fuoco Firefighters via AP)

His aunt, a doctor living in Italy, was said to have been at his bedside when he came round. Biran suffered multiple broken bones in the crash, though doctors determined there was no neurological damage. He has been gradually taken off sedation as his condition improved.

Hebrew media reported that a local psychiatrist has been appointed to help break the news to the child of the loss of his family.

‘In good hands’

Eitan’s school friends sent him an art project covered with colorful handprints and designs, to help cheer him up.

“It’s an enormous tragedy,” artist Stefano Bressani, father of one of his schoolmates, told Il Messaggero newspaper.

Marcella Severino, the mayor of the town of Stresa where the cable car started out, told the paper the boy’s aunt — his father’s sister — was looking after him.

“She has great strength, which will serve her well by her nephew’s side. She’s a constant presence in the life of the child, he’s in good hands,” she said.

Rescuers work by the wreckage of a cable car after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in the Piedmont region, northern Italy, May 23, 2022. (Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico Piemontese via AP)

Updating parliament on the incident Thursday, Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini outlined how the cable car hit a support pillar before plunging to the ground.

Three men have been arrested over the incident: Luigi Nerini, director of the Ferrovie del Mottarone company that manages the cable car, and two service managers, Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio.

The men have admitted to disabling the cable car’s emergency braking system after repeated problems with the braking device, instead of repairing it, as they did not want to stop operations.

Thirteen passengers died on the spot, while Eitan and another child were taken to hospital. The other child later died. 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.

The bodies of the five members of the Biran family killed in the crash arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening for burial.

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