Remains of six IAF servicemen found at Romania crash site

Remains taken to Brasov hospital; Israeli forensics team en route to collect bodies; 80 member delegation arrived Wednesday in 3 IAF choppers, including members from elite 669, Oketz units.

By YAAKOV KATZ JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 28, 2010 10:45
4 minute read.
IDF forces unload equipment at a Romanian military base.

IDF Romania delegation. (photo credit: Dover IDF)

BOBOC, ROMANIA - The remains of six IAF serviceman killed in the helicopter crash in central Romania earlier this week were recovered on Wednesday by Israeli and Romanian rescue services. Some of the remains were taken by Romanian security services to a hospital in the city of Brasov. Israeli forensic teams were en route to the hospital to identify and collect the remains.

Three IAF choppers carrying about 80 IDF delegates including IAF representatives and members of the IAF's elite search-and-rescue unit 669, Oketz elite canine unit, Rabbinical Corps, Medical Corps and Spokesperson's Unit arrived at a Romanian air force base Wednesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson reported.

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The teams headed to the scene of the helicopter crash in the Carpethian mountains to try to recover the remains of the six IAF servicemen who were pronounced dead after their Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter crashed on Monday in a military exercise.

Leaving from the Romanian air force base, helicopters landed on a mountain three kilometers from the crash site, and teams from 669 hiked to the wreckage using ropes to repel down the steep ravine. 

"The wreckage is scattered over a large area," a senior IDF officer told the Jerusalem Post. "The teams are at the site working to collect the remains and pieces of the wreckage which are required for the air force's investigation into what caused caused the crash."

IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan held a video conference call with members of the Israeli delegation at the Romanian air force base in Boboc and was receiving regular updates on the rescue efforts. The 669 unit was being assisted by search dogs from the Oketz unit which are specially trained to locate body parts. The IDF officer said that the operation was likely to last all day Wednesday and if needed will continue Thursday morning.




Even though the IDF had yet to reach the crash site, Romanian authorities declared that the airmen, and a Romanian military officer, had been killed. Late on Tuesday evening, Romanian rescue authorities found the black box flight recorder at the site, which may provide vital information on the cause of the crash.

The IAF 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 St.-Sgt. Oren Cohen, 24, from Rehovot.

The Romanian victim was named as Capt. Stefan Claudius Dragnea.

Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea sent condolences to families of those that died and Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed his “deep regret,” according to a ministry statement.

The crash occurred during a military exercise in which crews are trained to fly at low altitudes. The joint exercises with Romania, which were due to end on Thursday, were suspended after the accident.

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 to try to get to the site of the crash.

Due to the bad weather, poor visibility and tough terrain, it was impossible to get all the way to the wreckage.

Teams arrived Tuesday in two Hercules C-130 transport aircraft, and will be working with Wednesday's crews and with officers from the IDF Chaplaincy Corps – responsible for identifying the bodies – to find the remains of the servicemen.

The rescue work is expected to take all of Wednesday and possibly longer, depending on the weather.

“The teams will try their best to get there first thing in the morning,” IAF Deputy Commander Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Shefer said. “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.

The IAF committee of inquiry into the crash will also visit the scene and will begin collecting evidence.

“All of the possibilities are currently being investigated,” Shefer said.

The main directions of the inquiry are either a mechanical malfunction in the aircraft or human error, possibly caused by the thick fog during Monday’s flight.


Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.


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