Four people were killed yesterday in a light-plane crash near the Air Force's Technical School in Haifa, apparently due to engine failure.
The four on board the Piper Cherokee light aircraft were veteran flight instructor Dave Bechor of Kiryat Yam, the two pilots Yishai Hoch of Haifa and Mustafa Mustafa of Upper Nazareth, and flight cadet Moshe Bensel of Zichron Yaakov.
The pilot, who had taken off from Haifa airport at about 9am for a training flight in the Negev, reported a malfunction shortly afterward and requested an emergency landing at the airport.
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 airbase. The plane went down in flames close to the Technical School's classrooms, which were empty due to the Passover holiday.
"The pilot said he was returning 'urgently.' Everything happened very low," a flight safety expert involved in the crash investigation said. He added they were looking into a testimony that a "coughing sound" came from the engine before the crash.
Magen David Adom rescue services reported three people were dead at the site of the crash. The fourth passenger was also found dead shortly afterward.
Diab, Mustafa's brother, said yesterday that his sibling, 38, devoted much of his time to his flying hobby and received his flying license two years ago. "This is a big deal for us. There are few Arab pilots, due to security restrictions," he said.
Bechor, 64, a father of two, was an extremely careful pilot, who took no chances, his wife said. "He would never have gone flying if anything was wrong, or in stormy weather. He was a superb pilot," she said.
Ilana, wife of father-of-three Bensel, 56, said her husband had realized his dream to fly a year ago after leaving his job at Intel, and was due to receive his flying license soon. "He wasn't even supposed to fly yesterday, because he flew the previous day," she said.
Hoch, 57, also dreamed of being a pilot and achieved his dream after retiring from Rafael a few months ago. "He, Dave, Moshe and Yishai used to fly together over the past year and I knew them," his wife Ofra said.
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