Human error likely behind fatal tank accident

21-year-old IDF soldier Uriel Liwerant killed, 3 others hurt as tank falls into trench in Golan Heights.

Uriel Lebran 248.88 courtesy (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Uriel Lebran 248.88 courtesy
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Human error appeared to be what caused an IDF tank to overturn during a training exercise in the Golan Heights early Wednesday, killing the tank commander and injuring three other crew members. The accident occurred at 4:50 a.m. as a Merkava Mk III tank, under the command of St.-Sgt. Uriel Peretz Liwerant, was crossing a portable bridge placed on top of a mock anti-tank trench in the southern Golan. Halfway across the bridge, the tank veered to the side and flipped over, crushing Liwerant, whose body was partially outside the tank. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident occurred during a joint armored, infantry and engineering corps exercise as part of the IDF's company and battalion commanders' course. In charge of the course is Brig.-Gen. Avi Ashkenazi, brother of Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Ten tanks had passed over the bridge before Liwerant's, and his crew had practiced crossing portable bridges last week. Liwerant, 21, of Efrat, was a commander in the 188th Armored Brigade. He was born in Jerusalem to an American immigrant family and was a hesder yeshiva student at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut. "Uriel personified gentleness and at the same time readiness to lead, as he showed as the commander of his tank," said Rabbi Yaakov Fischer, head of Neveh Shmuel Yeshiva High School in Efrat, which Liwerant had attended. Following the accident, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, who immediately flew to the scene by helicopter, suspended all armored corps exercises. Mizrahi appointed Col. Yitzhak Cohen, a veteran Armored Corps officer, to head up an inquiry team to probe the incident. Cohen's team began collecting testimonies on Wednesday from officers and soldiers who participated in the exercise. The tank driver had been in visual contact with a deputy company commander from the Engineering Corps who was guiding him onto the bridge. The bridge was inspected after the accident and found to be intact. Two years ago, a similar accident happened, but no one was injured. In the early 1990s, a tank overturned while crossing a portable bridge and an officer was killed. Last week, nine soldiers were injured, three moderately and six lightly, when their armored personnel carrier fell into a ditch during a training exercise in the Judean Desert. The IDF is also investigating that incident.