Grandparents killed in cable car crash due to fly to Italy days before fatal ride but flight delayed by Gaza conflict

GREAT grandparents killed in the horrific Italian cable car crash were only there because their flight had been delayed due the carnage between Israel and Gaza, a pal has claimed.

Yitzhak, 81, and Barbara Cohen, 71, died along with great grandson Tom Biran, 2, and his parents Amit, 30, and Tal 26, and nine other people in the disaster in Piedmont, Italy.

The elderly couple had decided to try to get away from the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas as militants' rockets fell on their home city of Tel Aviv.

However, a pal told The Sun Online due to the situation the flight they had booked was delayed by a week due to the raging conflict.

And heartbreakingly it is thought if not for this delay, they may not have been onboard the fateful cable car which killed them.

Bezalel Karvat, 73, spoke to The Sun Online after all five of the family's coffins returned to Israel and were laid to rest this week.

He was a family friend and had spent many years working with Yitzhak at Israeli airline El Al.

"His whole trip was delayed by a week because of the fighting in Gaza," he told The Sun Online.

“If he would have gone on schedule I think he would have left before the tragedy happened.”

Mr Karvat revealed he actually called Yitzhak when he expected him to be home, but found he was still away in Italy.

They were an old couple but living good lives in good health and they were looking forward to more good years

Yitzhak and Barbara's other great grandchild, Eiten, 5, actually survived the crash – but has now been left without his mum and dad.

The Biran family's funeral took place on Thursday morning in a village in northern Israel as Eitan remained hospitalised in Turin, Italy.

Eitan reportedly cried out for his parents when he woke from his coma and remains in intensive care – being the sole survivor from the crash.

The young family had been living in Pavia, Italy, for four years after moving from Israel, with Amit hoping to complete a medical degree.

Mr Karvat told The Sun Online: "The funeral was so sad. So many people were there – family, friends, former colleagues.

“The family told the story of his life. They were an old couple but living good lives in good health and they were looking forward to more good years.

“The children and grandchildren were all crying and saying it was a big tragedy.” 

“He was a happy man who loved his work he loved being around people”

At the family intimate funeral "everyone pledged to take care of Eitan as his very affectionate parents did", said the president of Comites Raphael Barki 

Doctors said his condition remains "delicate" after he suffered injuries to his skull, chest and abdomen as well as having various leg fractures.

Sources from Regina Margherita hospital have since claimed a “last hug” from his father was the only thing that cushioned the impact of the crash at such a speed.

"Dad had a sturdy build, perhaps the last instinctive hug to protect him from death saved him," a source is quoted as saying in the Italian news outlet TGCOM24.

Italian police have arrested three managers from the operator of the cable car who are accused of deliberately deactivating the brake that could have stopped the car from flying backwards when the cable snapped, to avoid delays following a malfunction.

"It was a conscious choice, absolutely conscious. That's it," prosecutor Olimpia Bossi told reporters.

"It was not an occasional omission or forgetfulness. It was a conscious decision to disarm… to deactivate this emergency system in order to remedy what we have been told were problems, technical problems that were occurring on the line," she added.

The aerial tramway had "anomalies" since it resumed service on April 26 after lockdown, and "had been travelling in that way for several days and had made several trips," according to Bossi.

According to local reports, the cable car system had undergone major maintenance work between 2014 and 2016, and it was checked by specialist technicians in 2017 and last year.

The wires were apparently not due to be replaced until 2029, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Italian news agencies named the three suspects as Luigi Nerini – the head of Ferrovie del Mottarone, the firm which manages the cable car – and two other managers, Gabriele Tadini and Enrico Perocchio.

Although a maintenance team reportedly came to fix those problems on May 3, they remained unresolved, local Carabinieri police official Alberto Cicognani told Radiotre radio. 

"To avoid further interruptions in the service, they chose to leave in 'the fork', which prevents the emergency brake from working," said Cicognani.

He claimed all three men admitted what had happened. 

A teddy bear was left outside the hospital with the message: "Hi Eitan, you must make it. I’m leaving you my son’s stuffed animal to play and sleep with. I love you. A mom".

Witnesses to the disaster say they heard a “loud hiss” when the line snapped, the local mayor Marcella Severino has said.

She said the car went back down the line until it is believed to have hit a pylon before falling to the ground.

The crash marks Italy's first fatal cable car incident since 1998, when 20 people were killed after a low-flying US military jet cut a supporting cable at a ski resort.

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