Hundreds mourn fallen airmen

Six IAF servicemen killed in Romania helicopter crash laid to rest.

July 30, 2010 17:08
3 minute read.
The coffins of the six IAF servicemen killed in Monday's crash arrive in Tel Nof.

IAF coffins Tel Nof 311. (photo credit: Courtesy: IDF Spokesperson)

Hundreds of mourners attended the funerals Friday of the six Israeli Air Force servicemen killed during a training exercise in Romania earlier this week.

The bodies of the fallen airmen killed in Monday's Yasour helicopter crash in the Carpathian Mountains were brought to Tel Nof air base earlier Friday. The funerals of the fallen soldiers were held at various military cemeteries throughout Friday.

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4 helicopters make way home
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Lt.-Col. (Res.) Avner Goldman was buried at 12:15 p.m. in Modi'in; Lt.-Col. Daniel Shipenbauer was buried at 3:00 p.m. in Gdarot; Maj. Yahel Keshet was buried at 1:00 PM in Sharona; Maj. Lior Shai was buried at 2:00 p.m. in Hod Hasharon; Lt. Nir Lakrif was buried at 12:30 p.m. in Haifa; and St.-Sgt. Oren Cohen was buried at 1:00 p.m. in Rehovot.

At the funeral for Lt. Nir Lakrif in Haifa, his widow, who is four months pregnant with his child, eulogized her fallen husband.

"I feel as if I'm in a bad movie that refuses to end. We're separating in your way, through the sky, through your metal monster that you loved so much. You left me in a natural setting, like you loved, between trees and flowers. Look after us from your big white cloud," she said

On Thursday, IDF forensic teams identified the remains of the servicemen at a hospital in the Transylvanian city of Brasov. The remains were then to be transferred to the Romanian Air Force base in Boboc for the flight to Israel. There were slight problems in identifying the remains the IDF said late Thursday night, causing the plane meant to carry them back to home to take off at a later time that what was originally scheduled, Israel Radio reported. The process took several more hours and the plane eventually departed Friday morning.

The IDF delegation at the base began packing up its equipment on Thursday morning ahead of the return home.

Four of the eight IAF Sikorsky CH- 53 Sea Stallion Yasour helicopters that were in Romania for the Blue Sky training exercise took off on Thursday morning and began making their way back to Israel. Two helicopters remained behind to take the bodies of the servicemen from the Romanian hospital to the base.

The IDF sent a Boeing 767 airliner to the base to fly the remains to Israel. After a brief ceremony, the coffins were loaded onto the plane and members of the IDF Chaplaincy Corps recited kaddish.

Three of those killed were posthumously promoted, the IDF said.

Initial reports from the investigation point to human error, combined with poor visibility because of fog in the mountains, as the cause of the crash.

Military sources told The Jerusalem Post that the IDF did not plan to change the overseas training regimen for its helicopter and fighter jet squadrons, and would continue to send aircraft to drill with allies.

“These training exercises are crucial for the air force in preparing for the various challenges it faces in the region,” one senior officer said. “There is no reason to stop them based on the tragic accident in Romania.”

Teams from the IAF’s elite 669 search-and-rescue unit may accompany future deployments overseas. The unit already sends members for some exercises, but increased deployment is under consideration.

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