Israeli Air Force Pilot and Cadet Laid to Rest After Deadly Training Crash

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Israeli Air Force cadet Lihu Ben-Basa laid to rest at the military cemetery in Rishon Letzion, November 25, 2020.
Israeli Air Force cadet Lihu Ben-Basa laid to rest at the military cemetery in Rishon Letzion, November 25, 2020. Credit: Ilan Assayag

Air force instructor and veteran fighter pilot Itay Zeidan and cadet Lihu Ben-Basa, who were killed when a training plane crashed in southern Israel, were laid to rest on Wednesday in their respective hometowns. 

Zeidan, 42, father of four, was interred in the cemetery at Kibbutz Shuval. Ben-Basa, 19, was buried at the military cemetery in Rishon Letzion. 

The late Maj. (res.) Zaiden, had flown F-16 jets in the air force and having recently completed his military service, started working as an instructor as part of his reserve duty. His trainee, Cpl. Ben-Basa, had begun his flight training course four months ago and was still in the early stages of his training.

Ben-Basa’s father, Shlomo, eulogized him at his gravesite, saying as he wept:

“What were you thinking in your last moments, beloved of my soul? Did you suffer? Forgive me, my son. You live on in every cell of my body, in every one of my tears. I am struck by the sin that I did not do more, that I didn’t call you every day since you left the house.”

Ben-Basa’s grandmother Yael said: “Lihu isn’t here and there is no consolation. Tragedy has hit us with such suddenness that it still hasn’t registered in my brain and understanding. I saw it on television and didn’t think it was my grandson. How are we supposed to accept such things happening to someone just starting his life?”

The commander of the flight school, Yuval Harel, said: “You went out for your last flight with Zeidan, one of the best pilots in the air force.

Ben-Basa’s father, Shlomo, at his son's funeral, November 25, 2020. Credit: Ilan Assayag

"We’re trying to understand since yesterday morning what exactly happened there, and we are left with far more question marks than answers, but I promise you that we won’t rest until we know. We will investigate. Your friends in the course will continue their flights.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that Zeidan’s family had requested that his funeral not be covered by the media. A friend of Zeidan’s, Lior Reiser, said on behalf of the family: “After his release (from service), Itay wanted to find the balance between family and being a pilot. He had been accepted to be an instructor at the Hatzerim Base and he was happy.”

Reiser added that Zeidan “had been an exemplary father and husband. He loved his children so much, they admired him. They knew that he was teaching them values, that was important to him and he invested in it.”

The cause of the crash is under investigation. The men had been on a training flight and had not sent any distress signals before crashing near Rahat north of Be’er Sheva. The air force said they were not aware of any problems with the aircraft. All training flights have been suspended since the crash.

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