Three Israeli pilots and a British businessmen were killed Tuesday afternoon when a small civilian helicopter crashed into the sea a few hundred meters off the coast of Netanya.
The three Israeli victims were named as 49-year-old Ran Lapid from Ness Ziona, 35-year-old Yoav Tamir from Tel Aviv and 39-year-old Adar Shavit from Moshav Lapid, in the Shfela region.
The British businessmen, a man in his forties based in Rhodes, was apparently a friend of the three Israelis.
The first report of the crash was received by emergency personnel at 2:30 pm.
Eyewitness accounts described the rotor dropping off the helicopter, immediately followed by the aircraft's rapid descent into the sea. Experts ruled out the option that the pilots, reported to be capable, experienced professionals, were at fault.
Shortly thereafter, two jet skiers who were in the vicinity rushed to the scene and fished two bodies out of the water, dragging them to shore where they tried to resuscitate them, to no avail.
Magen David Adom paramedics, police, sea patrol rescue personnel, ZAKA divers, arrived at the scene shortly thereafter to search for casualties of the crash. Not long after they arrived, a police sea patrol boat found two additional bodies floating in the water.
The bodies of two additional passengers who were reportedly on board were later found by Israel Navy rescue boats and police helicopters which had been searching for them in the waters off Netanya.
The Israel Air Force immediately checked that all its aircraft were accounted for.
The helicopter reportedly had the word "Tamir" written on the side. Tamir is a civilian aviation company that offers recreational air excursions for tourists.
The Israel Aviation Authority said that the helicopter had taken off from Sde Dov airport and was heading north when it crashed. The IAA has taken over the investigation of the crash.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.