Italian relatives of a 6-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a cable car crash in northern Italy said on Monday they were working to secure his return from Israel, as Italian authorities opened an investigation into his possible kidnapping.
Eitan Biran is at the center of a bitter custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy. His Italian relatives claim that the boy was taken without their permission to Israel over the weekend. Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident.
14 people, including Eitan’s parents and younger brother, died when the cable car crashed into a mountain on May 23 after the cable broke. Released from Turin Hospital after weeks of treatment for serious injuries, Italian juvenile court officials ruled that the boy could live with his aunt near Pavia in northern Italy.
Pavia Mayor Mario Fracasi said Monday night that Pavia’s public prosecutor has opened an investigation into the possible kidnapping of Piran, Italian news agency La Presse reported. He did not provide additional details.
Aya Biran, Eitan’s aunt, told reporters on Sunday that Shmulik Peleg’s grandfather had taken him on an agreed daily visit, and then flown him without permission to Israel.
The Italian daily Corriere della Sera said the grandfather drove Eitan in a rented car to Lugano, Switzerland, from where they took a charter flight to Tel Aviv.
Relatives of the boy in Israel have denied that Eitan was kidnapped and insist that they are working for the boy.
His uncle in Italy, Or Nerko, went on a Hebrew media blitz on Monday, saying that Eitan’s home is in Italy and that his family is doing everything they can to ensure his safe return.
Nirko told Israel’s Channel 13 that the grandfather had “brutally torn” him from his family in Italy. He said Eitan speaks some Hebrew, but his primary language is Italian.
“He has no friends in Israel. There is nothing to prove him around. He has been to school in Italy for four years,” Nirko told Israeli radio station 103 FM. “The only place he calls his home as of today is my wife Aya, me and our two daughters.”
Nirko said the family is in contact with the Israeli ambassador to Italy and the Israeli and Italian authorities.
Asked by reporters on Monday about the boy’s condition, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said: “We are looking into what happened to intervene after that.”