IDF: Haifa helicopter crash was caused by technical malfunction

Surviving officer says he tried several times to pull the pilots out.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

The IDF believes that the crash of a navy helicopter off the coast of Haifa which killed two servicemen and injured a third was the result of a malfunction which caused a fire in an engine.

Israel Air Force chief of operations Brig.-Gen. Amir Lazar said that despite the fire causing a power failure, the pilots were able to lower the AS565 Panther helicopter to an altitude to carry out an emergency landing at sea. However the power failure left the pilots unable to make a distress call.

The AS565 Panther is a 25-year-old aircraft used for a variety of maritime missions such as reconnaissance, search and rescue operations and anti-submarine warfare. The IAF refers to the helicopter as the “Atalef,” or bat.

Meanwhile, the surviving officer, Capt. Ron Berman, sent a condolence video to the families of Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani and Maj. Chen Fogel. Berman’s identity was released for publication on Tuesday night.

Filmed in his hospital bed at at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus, Berman said he tried several times to pull Sachyani and Fogel out of the cockpit.

“The crash happened around 8:50 p.m., and I was able to save myself from the drowning helicopter. After that, following a few attempts to save my friends Sachyani and Fogel, I was rescued by the Police’s naval unit,” Berman said in footage released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Berman also told the Sachyani and Fogel families to “stay strong.”

Sachyani, the 38-year-old deputy commander of the Ramat David air base was buried on Tuesday in the Misgav Cemetery near Karmiel. He leaves behind a wife and three children. Fogel, who was 27, was posthumously promoted from Captain to Major. He was buried in Haifa’s Military Cemetery.

Berman is being treated for a broken vertebra and mild hypothermia and is in moderate condition.