Abducted by relatives! Custody battle for boy, 6, who survived Italy cable car crash

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Eitan Biran was the only survivor of a cable crash in the Alps in May, an incident that killed his young brother, parents and great-grandparents.

At the time of the fall, the family were looking over Lake Maggiore, located on the south side of the Alps.

The cable car, containing the family, was travelling up the mountain before it struck a pylon, and then dropped to the ground.

The car tumbled down the mountainside and crashed into trees, ending up 1,000ft away from the station.

Eitan’s mother Tal, 26, father Amit, 30, two-year-old brother Tom and great-grandparents Itshak and Barbara Cohen, 82 and 70 were killed alongside eight other non-relatives that were onboard.

The breakage of the cable and the failure of the emergency brake are said to be the cause of the incident according to Matteo Gasparini, provincial head of Italy’s Alpine rescue service, who described them as two major problems.

When describing the incident, Mr Gasparini said: “The cable car sped backwards and “ended up catapulted out of the support cables.”

When referring to the emergency brake issue he said: “We don’t know why it didn’t activate, while in the downstream car it worked”.

Two aunts of Eitan are in a custody dispute, as they fight to care for the boy after the tragedy.

Paternal aunt Aya Biran-Nirko is locked in a battle with maternal aunt Gali Peleg over who gets to care for the six-year-old.

She reiterated the boy’s need for stability after the terrifying ordeal, and the emphasised importance of Eitan’s Jewish and Israeli identity that her sister “valued”, which would be eroded if he continued to live in Italy.

She added: “In a few years he’ll look back and see where he grew up and who his parents were, and it’s important to me that he sees that we were always there for him. He’s already lost one family and does not need to lose another.”

Ms Biran-Nirko, who lives near Pavia in Italy, has been Eitan’s primary caregiver following his hospital release in June, but she faces a dispute from Mrs Peleg who is taking legal action so he could have a “normal” life in Israel.

In an interview with The Times, she said: “He was abducted by relatives who don’t know him at all. [Biran-Nirko] was not close to him in any way.

“The family there won’t take him to a park or out to eat, things we have done so he feels he has a family”.

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She reiterated the boy’s need for stability after the terrifying ordeal, and the emphasised importance of Eitan’s Jewish and Israeli identity that her sister “valued”, which would be eroded if he continued to live in Italy.

She added: “In a few years he’ll look back and see where he grew up and who his parents were, and it’s important to me that he sees that we were always there for him. He’s already lost one family and does not need to lose another”. 

Since the tragedy Mrs Peleg says she has only had brief visits with Eitan who “breaks into tears” when she has to leave.

Mrs Biran-Nirko’s lawyers referred to these claims as “surreal” and are comments of “falsehood”.

Following the ordeal, Eitan’s doctors have reported that he is recovering and that his conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, are “significantly improving”.

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