BOBOC, Romania – IDF rescue and forensic teams arrived in Romania on Tuesday and were gearing up to head out to the Carpathian Mountains to recover the remains of six Israel Air Force servicemen who were pronounced dead after their Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter crashed there a day earlier.
Even though the IDF had yet to reach the crash site, Romanian authorities declared that the airmen, and a Romanian military officer, had been killed. Late on Tuesday evening, Romanian rescue authorities found the black box flight recorder at the site, which may provide vital information on the cause of the crash.RELATED:Analysis: The IAF's helicopter programAircraft grounded after Romania crashWonderful husbands and fathers, for whom flying was everythingPhoto gallery: Rescue efforts in Romania
The IAF dead were identified as Lt.-Col (res.) Avner Goldman, 48, from
Modi’in; Lt.-Col. Daniel Shipenbauer, 43, from Moshav Kidron; Maj. Yahel
Keshet, 33, from Hatzerim; Maj. Lior Shai, 28, from Tel Nof; Lt. Nir
Lakrif, 25, from Tel Nof; and St.-Sgt. Oren Cohen, 24, from Rehovot.
The Romanian victim was named as Capt. Stefan Claudius Dragnea.
Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea sent condolences to families of
those that died and Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed his “deep
regret,” according to a ministry statement.
The crash occurred during a military exercise in which crews are trained
to fly at low altitudes. The joint exercises with Romania, which were
due to end on Thursday, were suspended after the accident.
On Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post
accompanied the IDF military attaché to
Romania, Col. Shlomi Cohen, as he climbed up the steep Carpathian
mountain range in central Romania to try to get to the site of the
Due to the bad weather, poor visibility and tough terrain, it was impossible to get all the way to the wreckage.
On Wednesday morning, search-and-rescue teams from the IAF’s elite 669
Unit and forensic experts will head out to locate the remains of the six
IAF servicemen and the Romanian soldier killed in the disaster.
The teams arrived in two Hercules C-130 transport aircraft on Tuesday
and will be working with officers from the IDF Chaplaincy Corps –
responsible for identifying the bodies – as well as dogs from the army’s
Oketz canine unit to find the remains.
The rescue work is expected to take all of Wednesday and possibly longer, depending on the weather.
“The teams will try their best to get there first thing in the morning,”
IAF Deputy Commander Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Shefer said. “The remains of the
helicopter are spread over a wide area, in a steep ravine, difficult to
Shefer explained the IAF’s decision to ground all of its aircraft on
Tuesday. “It is important that we stop and think about the families and
the missing servicemen,” he said.
The IAF committee of inquiry into the crash will also visit the scene and will begin collecting evidence.
“All of the possibilities are currently being investigated,” Shefer said.
The main directions of the inquiry are either a mechanical malfunction
in the aircraft or human error, possibly caused by the thick fog during
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the helicopter disaster
during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College on
Quoting from Samuel II, he eulogized: “They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions, but today, choked by tears, we hear, how
are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” “The disaster
is large,” he said. “This is a difficult day for all of Israel... The
Jewish people trembles for the best of its sons, who were on an
important mission for IDF and the state.”
Shefer said the IAF would continue training overseas despite the crash.
The advantage of flying in Romania was the ability to train pilots in
unfamiliar terrain and territory, he said. The IAF also looks for places
like Romania where it can conduct long-range training flights.
In recent years, the IAF has sent aircraft to conduct exercises in
Romania, Gibraltar (according to foreign sources), Greece, Italy and the