'No survivors found in wreckage of IAF chopper in Romania'

Romanian rescue official says chopper burst into flames after hitting mountain; Hercules planes arrives with IDF medical, rabbinical teams; Romanian personnel reach crash site.

By YAAKOV KATZ JPOST CORRESPONDENT, AP
July 27, 2010 13:23
2 minute read.
A CH-53 YASOUR heavy helicopter like the one shown here crashed in Romania.

IAF helicopter 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The wreckage of the IAF Yasour helicopter that crashed in Romania on Monday was found and none of the seven soldiers aboard — one Romanian and six Israelis — appeared to have survived the crash, Romanian officials said Tuesday.

Mircea Opris, Romania's chief mountain rescue official, said that the chopper had burst into flames after it hit a mountain wall in a remote area of central Romania.

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"It is totally dismembered," Opris said in an interview with Realitatea TV.

Mircea Opris, Romania's chief mountain rescue official, said that the chopper had burst into flames after it hit a mountain wall in a remote area of central Romania.

"It is totally dismembered," Opris said in an interview with Realitatea TV.

Ciprian Aldea, a spokesman for the local police force, said human remains and helicopter parts were scattered in the area.

"Corpses, as such, have not been found. It is a very difficult area, very rocky," he said. "You can't reach the area without the appropriate search equipment."

Army Radio reported that two Hercules transport planes from Tel-Nof airbase landed in Romania early Tuesday afternoon. The planes were carrying medical, rabbinical and search-and-rescue teams as well as equipment to assist in the search for the bodies of the seven soldiers who were on the helicopter.

Romanian army and rescue personnel also reached the helicopter crash site on Tuesday afternoon, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced.

The Romanian team has begun collecting debris from the site.

Deputy IAF commander: Cause of crash still unclear

IAF Brig.-Gen Nimrod Shefer, deputy commander of the air force, told Army Radio on Tuesday that military investigators still could not determine the cause of Monday's helicopter crash.

Shefer said that the IDF had reviewed the radio communications between the helicopter that crashed and another helicopter participating in the training exercise and did not find any indication that the aircraft was experiencing technical difficulties or inclement weather before it crashed.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, an Israeli team of pilots and IAF servicemen succeeded in reaching the crash site.

The IAF team descended from a helicopter near the remote crash site and then trekked the rest of the way on foot. They secured the area and waited for the arrival of the search-and-rescue team from Tel-Nof air force base, as well as officers from the IDF Rabbinate to assist in identifying the bodies.

Access to the crash site had been seriously limited by the rugged terrain, which had prevented vehicles from reaching the site and impeded Romanian and Israeli search efforts.

Romanian Defense Ministry spokesman Constantin Spanu said on Monday night that Romanian officials were scrambling to reach the accident site near the town of Zarnesti, some 120 kilometers northwest of Bucharest.

Spanu said the helicopter had been flying at low altitude when radio contact with it was lost mid-afternoon Monday.

Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea immediately established a committee to probe the cause of the accident.

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report


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