A single person who survived a cable car crash in northern Italy was nothing short of a miracle.
Eaton Biran, five, is believed to have been saved by the protective embrace of his father Amit at the time of the accident, as the cable car fell to the ground.
The tragedy has been one of the most heart-wrenching stories in Italy so far this year.
Fifteen people were inside the cabin when leaving the town of Stresa by Lake Maggiore, for a 20-minute ride to the summit of Monte Mottarone on 23 May.
It was the first weekend of sunshine since Italy began easing coronavirus restrictions in late April, including opening up to travelers from Israel.
Just seconds before the cabin reached Monte Mottarone, a lead cable popular with families for the Elpiland amusement park, a lead cable broke, causing it to hurt backward before falling 20 meters into a wooded area below.
All except two passengers, including Itan’s parents, two-year-old brother, Tom, and great-grandparents who had arrived from Israel, were killed in the impact. Bodies of some victims were found trapped in a broken cabin; Others were thrown into the woods.
Eaton was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Turin with injuries to his head and leg. Agitated and summoned to his mother, doctors had to sedate him. Mattia Zorloni, who was the same age as Eaton at the time of the accident, was also airlifted from the crash site and taken to the same hospital, but soon died of her injuries.
The next day, as the people in Stresa absorbed the shock of the tragedy, they were returning to Eton—the “little boy left from his father’s arms”—asking himself what his life would be like now.
The accident not only killed Eaton’s parents, brother and great-grandparents, but tore apart the rest of his family in the midst of a vicious custody battle that led to the boy allegedly abducted by his maternal grandfather last week. Gone and taken to Israel.
Eaton was born in Israel, but was living in Pavia, a city in the Lombardy region, when he was 18 months old. His father was a doctor and his mother, Tal Peleg-Beeran, was a graduate in psychology.
A few days after the accident, a Turin court granted Eton’s paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirco, who was also a doctor living in Pavia, in temporary custody. The speedy detention decision was needed so that Eaton, who holds an Italian and an Israeli passport, could be given the necessary medical care. But the move was opposed by relatives on his mother’s side in Israel, and as Eaton settled in his aunt’s home, where he had been living since being discharged from the hospital in June, tensions between the two sides of the family. extended.
In August, it was announced at a press conference in Israel that Eton’s maternal aunt, Gali Peleg, had begun proceedings for his adoption. Her lawyer, Ronen DeLayahu, accused relatives in Italy of holding Eaton “hostage”. He claimed: “Eaton was taken in by a family that did not know him, who had not been close to him in any way before.”
Eaton’s grandfather, Samuel Peleg, who was placed under five days of house arrest this week as part of an investigation into an alleged kidnapping in Tel Aviv, is said to have moved to Italy after the tragedy. He was granted visitation rights to Eaton, who in recent months was undergoing treatment for his physical injuries and mental trauma caused by the accident.
Peleg also had Eaton’s Israeli passport and refused to give it up, fearing that Eaton might be taken out of Italy, despite a judge giving an August 30 deadline.
Despite Peleg having missed the deadline, his visitation rights were not revoked.
On the morning of September 11, Peleg picks up Eaton saying that he will take her out for lunch and toy shopping. As he left the house with his walking frame on, Eaton happily said goodbye, promising to buy toys for his cousins as well.
As agreed, he was not brought home till evening. Instead, he was reportedly taken across the border to Lugano in Switzerland before taking off on a private plane to Tel Aviv. Gally Peleg denies that Eaton was kidnapped. “We will not use that word,” she told Israeli media. “What happened is that we brought Eaton home.”
Biran-Nirko, who presented a petition in a Tel Aviv court for Eaton’s return to Italy and is preparing to travel to Israel, spoke to the press for the first time the day after his alleged abduction. She said that Eaton could only sleep if she held his hand and that whenever he left the room, she would give him her glasses to reassure him of his return. Birn-Nirco denied the allegations that she was “unknown” to Eaton prior to the tragedy. “That’s wrong – our families shared each other’s lives,” she said.
Last Monday Eton was due to start the school at which his parents had registered him before he died. The Italian press published pictures of his empty school desk. Eaton’s desk may remain empty for some time, with the custody battle far from being resolved.