US service member arrested in Italy for fatal car crash

The driver's blood alcohol level was allegedly four times the legal limit.

August 24, 2022, 2:40 PM

A U.S. service member was arrested in Italy for allegedly striking and killing a teenage boy with her car while intoxicated, according to Italian media.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that the fatal incident occurred in the northern town of Porcia on Sunday at around 2:30 a.m. local time.

ANSA identified 20-year-old U.S. Air Force service member Julia Bravo as the person who allegedly struck 15-year-old Giovanni Zanier with her car.

"I am devastated with sadness. I apologize to everyone for the pain I have caused," she said in a hearing to validate her arrest on Tuesday.

Bravo, who is stationed at Aviano Air Base, less than 10 miles north of Porcia, was allegedly driving back after a night out when she lost control of her vehicle at a roundabout and hit Zanier, who was walking home with two friends on a cycling path near the road. Zanier died but his friends were not injured, according to ANSA, citing Italian police.

The driver suffered minor injuries from broken glass and the air bag deployed during the crash. Bravo's blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit, ANSA reported.

Italian police placed Bravo under house arrest at Aviano Air Base and charged her with vehicular homicide, according to ANSA.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force told ABC News on Monday: "We can confirm there was a vehicle incident involving an Airman from Aviano Air Base. The Air Force is cooperating with local authorities on the investigation."

PHOTO: This photograph released by Italy's fire and rescue service on Aug. 22, 2022, shows the car driven by a U.S. service member that allegedly hit and killed a 15-year-old boy in the town of Porcia, northern Italy, early on Aug. 21, 2022.
This photograph released by Italian fire and rescue service Vigili del Fuoco on Aug. 22, 2022, shows the car driven by a U.S. service member that allegedly crashed into the curb at the edge of a roundabout in the town of Porcia, northern Italy, early on Aug. 21, 2022, resulting in the death of a 15-year-old boy.
Vigili del Fuoco via AP

The victim's mother, Barbara Scandella, addressed the court, asking for Bravo to be tried in Italy and not in the U.S.

"That woman must be tried in Italy and serve her entire sentence here," Scandella said. "We know all the precedents where American soldiers have been involved in very serious incidents in Italy. The truth is that, in these cases, they do what they want and go unpunished.”

ANSA reported that an Italian judge is expected to decide this week whether the case will be prosecuted in Italy or in the U.S.

Speaking to Italy's state-owned public broadcaster RAI, Pordenone Prosecutor Raffaele Tito said the Italian Ministry of Justice can ask that Bravo be tried in Italy based on its own decision or a request by the U.S. to do so. Tito's office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Tuesday.

If Italian prosecutors indict Bravo, U.S. authorities could invoke jurisdiction as part of an Italian-U.S. military treaty under NATO auspices. U.S. military officials could take over the prosecution in that case.

On Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Tad Clark, commander of the U.S. Air Force 31st Fighter Wing, met with Zanier’s family, according to unit spokesman Capt. Frederick Wallace.

"It happened this morning, and it was a private meeting involving Brig Gen Clark, Col Marco Schiattoni from the Italian Air Force (who is the commander of the Pagliano and Gori airport) and the family. Brig Gen Clark was there to personally express condolences to the family for the loss of their son, and to reiterate that the 31st Fighter Wing will continue to work with local law enforcement agencies while the investigation of this incident is ongoing," Wallace said in a statement to ABC News.

The town council of Porcia had recently ordered streetlights in the location where the accident occurred to be shut off at 2 a.m. local time, but Italian police said the crash would probably not have been averted even with the lights on, according to ANSA.

The Court of Pordenone validated Bravo's pre-trial detention.

ABC News' Christine Theodorou and Teddy Grant contributed to this report.