Israeli boy only survivor after Italy cable car disaster kills 14

Five-year-old’s parents, brother and great-grandparents among those who died

An Israeli boy has been identified as the only survivor of a cable car tragedy in Italy in which 14 people were killed.

His parents, younger brother and two great-grandparents were among the dead, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The boy, 5, identified as Eitan Biran by the ministry, is in hospital in Turin with broken bones.

Italian authorities launched an investigation into the tragedy on Mottarone mountain, near the border with Switzerland, which overlooks Lake Maggiore.

Among the victims were Italian researcher Serena Consentino and her Iranian-born fiance Mohammadreza Shahaisavandi, said Italy’s National Council of Research, where she had received a research grant.

Marcella Severino, the mayor of Stresa, declared Monday a day of mourning as Italian Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini visited the scene.

"It is the common task of all the institutions to make sure that not only this never happens again but also to help those who have been personally affected. I thank the mayor for having wanted today to be a day of mourning," Mr Giovannini said.

Early assessments suggest a cable snapped and an emergency brake failed, sending the cabin careening down the mountain and crashing to the ground.

Mr Giovannini said an inquiry commission would investigate the “technical and organisational causes” of the incident, while prosecutors would explore whether there was any criminal involvement.

Ms Severino said witnesses heard a loud hiss when the lead cable snapped.

Israel's Foreign Ministry identified five Israelis killed as Eitan’s parents, Amit Biran and Tal Peleg-Biran, their son Tom Biran, 2, and the children’s great-grandparents, Barbara and Yitzhak Cohen.

The ministry said they had arrived in Italy on May 19 to visit their granddaughter and great-grandchildren.

A view taken on May 24, 2021 shows the arrival building of the Stresa to Mottarone cableway at the Mottarone peak, Piedmont, a day after a cable car accident killed 14 people. / AFP / MIGUEL MEDINA
The arrival building of the Stresa to Mottarone cableway. AFP

The Israeli embassy is working to help repatriate their bodies, it said.

Mottarone reaches an altitude of 1,491 metres and overlooks the surrounding Alps in Piedmont.

The mountain has a small amusement park, Alpyland, which has a children’s rollercoaster. The area is well-known for mountain bike paths and hiking trails.

Italy’s worst cable car disaster was in 1998, when a low-flying US military jet cut through the cable of a ski lift in Cavalese in the Dolomites, killing 20 people.

Updated: May 28, 2021 11:50 PM

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