helicopter crash 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
BOBOC, ROMANIA - IDF rescue and forensic teams, led by the elite 669 search and recovery unit, will head out to the Carpathian Mountains Wednesday morning to
recover the remains of six Israeli Air Force servicemen who were
pronounced dead after they Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion transport
helicopter crashed there on Monday.
Romanian security forces Tuesday retrieved the black box of the helicopter that crashed and will assist the IAF in covering what caused the crash.
The helicopter, a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion, crashed Monday during a
military exercise in which crews are trained to fly at low altitudes.
The joint exercises, which were due to end Thursday, were suspended
after the crash.
Report: IAF helicopter flew into a cloud before crashing
Romania authorities: Entire helicopter crew killed in crash
Photo gallery: Rescue efforts in Romania
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 near the site of the helicopter crash. 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 the scene of the crash to try
and recover the remains of the six IAF servicemen and Romanian soldier
killed in Monday’s air disaster.
The teams arrived in two Hercules C-130 transport aircraft on Tuesday
and together with officers from the IDF Rabbinate Corps – responsible
for identifying the bodies – as well as dogs from the IDF’s Oketz canine
unit to locate the remains. IDF assessments are that the rescue work
will take all day and possibly longer depending on the weather.
“The teams will try their best to get there first thing in the morning,”
Deputy Commander of the IAF Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Shefer said Tuesday. “The
remains of the helicopter are spread over a wide area, in a steep
ravine, difficult to reach.”
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.
In addition to the rescue teams, the IAF commission of inquiry into the
crash will visit the scene and begin collecting evidence. “All of the
possibilities are currently being investigated,” Shefer said.
The main directions are either a mechanical malfunction in the aircraft
or human error, possibly caused by the thick fog that was in the area
during the Monday flight that ended in disaster.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the helicopter disaster,
speaking during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College
"The disaster is large," he said. "This is a difficult day for all of
Israel. We are choked up today hearing about how the heroes fell from on
high, and how the vessels of war fell to the earth."
"The Jewish people tremble for the best of its sons that were on an important mission for IDF and the state," Netanyahu said.
Even though the IDF had yet to reach the crash site, Romanian
authorities declared that the servicemen were killed in the crash and
that their bodies had been located.
The 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 Staff Sergeant Oren Cohen, 24, from
Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea sent condolences to families of
those that died and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressing his
"deep regret," according to a ministry statement.
Shefer said that the IAF would continue training overseas despite the
crash. He said that the advantage of flying in Romania was the ability
to train pilots in unfamiliar terrain and territory. The IAF also looks
for places like Romania where it can fly to train long-range flights. In
recent years, the IAF has sent aircraft to exercises in Romania,
Gibraltar, Greece, Italy and the United States.
Yaakov Katz is the Jerusalem Post Correspondent in Romania.