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Engine failure followed by human error were the causes of the plane crash in Haifa in April in which four people died, according to the accident report released yesterday.

The four fatalities when the Piper Cherokee went down were veteran flight instructor David Bechor of Kiryat Yam, pilots Yishai Hoch of Haifa and Mustafa Mustafa of Upper Nazareth, and flight cadet Moshe Bensel of Zichron Yaakov.

Shortly after the plane took off from Haifa airport at about 9 A.M. en route to a training flight in the Negev, the pilot reported engine trouble and asked to return for an emergency landing. The flight controller approved the landing and the pilot turned back toward the airport, but lost control of the plane after it clipped some treetops in a eucalyptus forest just outside the air base.

The accident began with "a technical malfunction in the engine's exhaust system, continued with a tight turn at low speed and altitude, with the intention of returning to the landing strip... and ended with a sharp nose-lift to avoid hitting the trees, as a result of which the plane swung into a vertical position, hit the treetops, crashed and burst into flames," writes the Transport Ministry's chief air traffic accidents investigator, Yitzhak Raz, in his report.

The report raises the possibility that the plane's vertical-position warning light may have failed to function in time. In addition, a part in the plane's exhaust system should have been changed at least four times during the plane's accumulated flight hours. But the institute responsible for carrying out the routine inspections was not aware of the manufacturer's demands to check the exhaust system at every examination or of the faulty part's longevity.