Relatives of a 6-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a cable car crash this year in northern Italy say they are working to secure his return from Israel as Italian authorities have opened a investigating his possible kidnapping
Eitan Biran is at the center of a bitter custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal parents in Italy. His Italian relatives claim the boy was airlifted without their permission to Israel over the weekend. Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident.
Fourteen people, including Eitan’s parents and younger brother, died when the cable car slammed into the side of a mountain on May 23 after the cable broke. After being released from a Turin hospital after weeks of treatment for serious injuries, Italian juvenile court authorities decided the child could live with a paternal aunt near Pavia in northern Italy .
The mayor of Pavia, Mario Fracassi, said Monday evening that the prosecutor of Pavia had opened an investigation into a possible kidnapping of Biran, the Italian news agency LaPresse reported. He gave no further details.
Aya Biran, Eitan’s aunt, told reporters on Sunday that the boy’s maternal grandfather – Shmulik Peleg – took him on an agreed day visit, then took him to Israel without permission. .
Italian daily Corriere della Sera said the grandfather drove Eitan in a rental car to Lugano, Switzerland, where they boarded a chartered flight to Tel Aviv.
The boy’s relatives in Israel have denied that Eitan was kidnapped and insist they are working in the boy’s best interests.
His uncle in Italy, Or Nirko, participated in a Hebrew-language media blitz on Monday, claiming Eitan’s home was in Italy and his family was doing everything to ensure his safe return.
The grandfather “brutally tore him away” from his family in Italy, Nirko told Israeli channel Channel 13. He said Eitan speaks some Hebrew, but his main language is Italian.
“He has no friends in Israel. There is nothing that fixes him there. He has been going to school in Italy for four years, ”Nirko told Israeli radio station 103FM. “The only place he calls home from today is the home of me and my wife Aya and our two daughters.”
Nirko said the family was in contact with the Israeli ambassador to Italy and the Israeli and Italian authorities.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, asked by reporters on Monday about the boy’s case, said: “We are looking into what happened in order to intervene next.”