'He was the best dad in the world'

Pilot Shai Danor, father of five, to be buried in Tel Aviv.

Shai Danor 224 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Shai Danor 224
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Major (res.) Shai Danor, 35, a father of five young children, would have celebrated his 12th wedding anniversary next week. He had also planned to run in the Berlin marathon on September 28, his first such race. Instead, his family and friends will gather on Friday morning at 11 a.m. in Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul cemetery to bid farewell to Danor, one of two IAF reservists killed Wednesday evening in a fiery helicopter crash in the Galilee. The crash was apparently due to a technical malfunction that occurred 10 minutes after the chopper took off from the Ramat David Air Force Base. Also killed was navigator Maj. (res.) Yuval Holtzman, 40, from Matan, a father of three. Badly shaken by the news, a friend of Danor's, Gilad Elazar, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that when he first read of the crash, on the Internet, he worried immediately about Danor, who he knew was on reserve duty. "My wife called his wife [Leehi] and she said that Shai was flying," Elazar said. "Five minutes later she called back to say she couldn't reach him." Danor's father-in-law, IAF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Tzvi Kanor, told Channel 2 he heard of the crash from a friend, television journalist Menashe Raz, who called him to report that a Cobra, the kind of aircraft his son-in-law flew, had crashed. "I called Shai and the phone was closed. Right away, I didn't have a good feeling," Kanor said. "We all tried to call him," said Elazar. In their hearts, they all knew what happened, he said. The ominous feeling grew stronger with each passing moment that they failed to hear from Danor. Elazar and his wife were already in the Danors' home in Rosh Ha'ayin, where they also live, when IDF officers came to the door to inform Leehi of her husband's death. "We spoke with the children," Kanor said. "The oldest one understands as much as a [boy] of eight can. The daughter [age five] understands that her father won't wake up any more." The younger children - a daughter aged three and twin boys who are just one-and-a-half - can't really understand, Kanor added. Ro'i, eight, burst into tears on Channel 10 when asked to describe his father. "He was the best dad in the world. I loved playing with him," he said. Danor's friends said his children were his whole world. After the twins were born, he left his hi-tech job to help his wife with them. But he never stopped flying, which, after his family, was his passion. He split his time between the two. When he was first drafted into the army the air force refused to accept him, but it changed its mind after he pushed hard to be accepted. One family friend, who did not want to be named, said he had been told by a pilot that during one flight when the helicopter appeared to be out of control, it was Danor's cool head that saved their lives. He never shirked from duty and flew during the Second Lebanon War, his friends said. Danor was never afraid to be in the air, Elazar said. "He was fearless." He first met the Danors when they lived as neighbors in Rosh Ha'ayin 11 years ago. The families often took vacations together, including one last month, he said. Danor, Elazar said, was vivacious and enjoyed life. "We need him, especially in these moments," Elazar said. Leehi told Channel 10 that she and her husband had planned to spend a romantic weekend at the Carmel Spa to celebrate their anniversary. Now, she said, "I'm alone."