Two Israel Air Force pilots were killed Monday night in a helicopter crash off Haifa's coast in Israel's north.
The victims were identified as 38-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Erez Sachiani, who was married with three children, and 27-year-old Major Hen Fogel.
An officer in the military helicopter was also moderately injured, but his condition has since improved.
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According to Brig. Gen. Amir Lazar, the navy helicopter, a Eurocopter AS565 Panther, took off for a training flight around 8 P.M. Israel time and crashed shortly after 9 P.M. Following the crash, large rescue teams arrived at the scene.
The first crew member was pulled from the water by naval police a mile and a half from the shore, after civilians who witnessed the crash called the police. He was brought to the naval base in Haifa, and taken to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa in moderate condition.
Later, the other two crew members were recovered after forces from Israel Defense Forces Unit 669, Navy and the Police Rescue Unit assisted in the effort. Attempts were made to resuscitate the pilots, but rescuers pronounced them dead.
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An investigation was opened, headed by colonel Menashe T., the previous squadron commander, to establish the cause of the crash.
"There was no call on the communications network, the helicopter disappeared from the control screen and later a report of a helicopter hitting the sea arrived,” Lazar explained.
However, the naval patrol officer said that he called the personal phone of one of the pilots, who said "we crashed," before losing signal.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said "This is a very sad night. The air force pilots who fell in the accident were among the best of our sons. The people of Israel will not forget their contribution, night and day, to national security."
Defense Minister Benny Gantz wished "heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter crash and complete healing to the injured," and promised that the IDF would "investigate the incident and draw the necessary conclusions."
After the accident, commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin ordered the grounding of all helicopters in the same array as the one crashed, and halted training flights.
The air force has seen a number of fatal accidents in the last few years. In 2020, two pilots crashed and died in an agricultural field next to Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev, which according to the investigation was caused by the plane flying at low altitude.
In 2017, a helicopter pilot was killed in a crash near the Ramon base in the south. According to the investigation, there was a malfunction in the steering rod.