(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
BOBOC, Romania - Four Israeli Air Force Sikorsky CH-53 sea stallion Yasour helicopters took off Thursday morning from Boboc Air Force Base in Romania and began making their way back to Israel, ending a dramatic week in which a helicopter from their squadron crashed, killing six Israeli servicemen and one Romanian officer.
Two helicopters remained behind to assist in transporting the remains of the servicemen undergoing identification at a Romanian hospital back to the base where they will be loaded on to an IDF Hercules transport aircraft and flown back to Israel late Thursday.
finds all 6 bodies
The IAF's helicopter
husbands and fathers, for whom flying was
gallery: Rescue efforts in Romania
IDF search and rescue teams succeeded on Wednesday in
retrieving the bodies of the servicemen killed in the
helicopter crash this week in central Romania.
IDF sources said that
based on the evidence at the site, the crash was likely the result of human
error and that the heavy fog and poor weather on Monday caused the helicopter to
fly into a cliff.
The IDF delegation, which set up a forensics lab at a
Romanian Air Force base here, worked throughout Wednesday to identify the body
parts and was preparing to hold a ceremony on Thursday before lifting off for
The delegation consists of forensic experts and officers from the
Chaplains Corps who are equipped with files on the fallen servicemen, including
fingerprints, dental records and other markings that can be used in confirming
the identities of the bodies.
Three IAF helicopters carrying about 60
soldiers from the air force’s search-and-rescue unit 669, officers and dogs from
the Oketz canine unit, and Medical Corps representatives flew early on Tuesday
morning to the Carpathian Mountains. Due to the tough terrain, the soldiers
landed on a mountain 3 km. from the crash site and went the rest of the way on
“The wreckage is scattered over a large area,” a senior IDF officer
told The Jerusalem Post
“The teams at the site worked to collect the
remains and pieces of the wreckage that are required for the air force’s
investigation into what caused the crash.”
IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan said on Wednesday that the
Israeli pilots who crashed had been on their first flight in the area as part of
the Blue Sky 2010 joint training exercise with the Romanian Air
Three pairs of helicopters participated in that particular
The aircraft that crashed was the leader of the first pair.
Shortly before the accident, the pilots on both helicopters noticed that they
were approaching a cloud and, in line with procedures, began moving away from
one another. The second helicopter succeeded in getting away from the cloud, but
the lead helicopter hit the cliff.
Nehushtan defended the IAF’s safety
regulations and said there were about 1.5 accidents per every 1,000 flight
hours, on par with the most advanced air forces in the world. The IAF succeeded
in maintaining the ratio despite the dramatic increase in operations and
training flights in recent years, he said.
“The helicopter fleet does
things that cannot be spoken about, in places far away, at night and without
knowing what weather they will encounter,” Nehushtan said.
thing that pilots have is confidence in their capabilities, which are based on
experience and expertise. A pilot is like a surgeon.
If he hasn’t trained
in two years, his experience is irrelevant.”
Also on Wednesday, President
Shimon Peres asked hundreds of people at Beit Hanassi to stand in memory of the
IAF crash victims.
Speaking at the annual awards ceremony for the Council
for a Beautiful Israel, the president said, “We have lost six of our finest
sons, six of the most beautiful of our people. Israel is not beautiful without
the beauty of the Israelis themselves. The army is the most treasured asset of
the Jewish people, and our sons who fought and fell are the greatest treasures
of the army and of us all. Our hearts are with the families, with the parents
who have lost beloved sons, with the grieving wives, one of whom is pregnant,
and with the young children who have been orphaned.”
One of Peres’s sons
served in the air force.
The president conveyed Israel’s condolences to
those mourning Romanian airman Capt. Stefan Dragnea, who was also killed in the
“Every pilot who gets into a helicopter is aware of both the
mission and the risk,” Peres said.
“There are nations that have not known
war, but we, a stubborn people, have fought seven wars, and we were able to
withstand them, to maintain our traditions and honor our sons.”
Cashman contributed to this report.
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