An IDF officer and a soldier were killed and four others were wounded when their heavy artillery vehicle flipped over during a training exercise on the Golan Heights Wednesday morning.
The soldiers were identified as Sec.-Lt. Avshalom Armoni, 22, of Beit Horon, and Sgt. Avinoam Cohen, 22, of Jerusalem.
“During the night, as part of an exercise in a battalion commanders course on the Golan Heights, an M-109 howitzer vehicle flipped over,” the army said.
The incident happened while the vehicle was traveling as part of an armored convoy during a drill for company and battalion commanders on a path near Nafah junction. The convoy began crossing a road blocked off for it to arrive at the nearby training field and continue the drill when the driver made an unexplained turn.
According to the initial investigation, the driver reported that his view had been blurred by headlights coming from a convoy of vehicles opposite their vehicle.
The vehicle then overturned into a ditch between 6- and 8-meters deep at around 2 a.m.
Armoni, an artillery commander, and Cohen, who was acting as the team commander, were standing in the turret of the vehicle when it overturned. According to the army, one of the fatalities had been trapped in the vehicle for several hours.
Four other soldiers were wounded in the incident, two lightly and two seriously.
Two were evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, suffering from internal and orthopedic injuries. The two lightly wounded soldiers were evacuated to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
Armoni, a student at the Otniel Hesder Yeshiva, was described by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon as a “pleasant, virtuous” man who was a “model commander and soldier loved by his friends and family.” His cousin, Na’ama Henkin, was killed along with her husband, Eitam, in a drive-by shooting terrorist attack in October 2015 near Nablus.
Armoni, who was posthumously promoted to lieutenant, will be buried on Thursday at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, and Cohen who posthumously became a staff-sergeant, was buried Wednesday evening on in the same military cemetery.
Following the accident, the IDF has stopped all exercises until Sunday. Exercises that involve driving at night for armored vehicles have also been stopped until a special team, led by Yiftah Brigade Commander and Ground Forces Training Division head Col. Rafi Wolfson, investigates the circumstances of the accident.
A review of safety precautions will also be carried out.
IDF Ground Forces commander Maj.-Gen Kobi Barak has appointed a team of experts led by Brig.-Gen. Mordechai Kahane to examine the accident. Military Police have also opened an investigation.
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