Two Israeli pilots killed in helicopter crash

Crash believed to be caused by technical malfunction; IDF grounds entire fleet of helicopter that crashed, pending results of an investigation.

By World Israel News Staff

Two Israeli air force pilots were killed and a naval officer was seriously wounded when their military helicopter crashed off the coast of Haifa on Monday evening.

The pilots were named by the military as Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani, 38, and Maj. Chen Fogel, 27.

IDF search and rescue teams pulled the aircraft from the Mediterranean Sea, with navy divers retrieving the three men from the wreckage.

The sole survivor is listed as being in stable condition at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.

A senior IAF official told Israel Hayom that the helicopter had been flying normally for around an hour before the crash, and that a technical malfunction is presumed to be the cause of the tragic incident.

Army Radio reported that the helicopter had not emitted a distress call before entering the water, suggesting that whatever brought down the aircraft happened swiftly.

The helicopter that crashed was a Eurocopter AS565 Panther, colloquially referred to as an Atalef (bat) within the Israeli military.

The military has grounded its entire fleet of the type of helicopter until the results on an investigation into the cause of the crash.

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“This is a very sad night. In the name of Israel’s citizens, I ask to send deep, heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter accident and a speedy recovery to the wounded naval officer,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Twitter Monday night.

“The naval officers who were killed in the accident were some of the best of our boys. The people of Israel won’t forget their contribution, day and night, to the security of the state. May their memory be blessed.”

Social media footage not far from the scene of the crash showed flames and smoke coming from the water, which suggests that the helicopter caught fire before plunging into the sea.