image Photo: Flash90

2 IDF pilots die in helicopter crash

The officers were killed and a third was injured when the Eurocopter AS565 Panther went down during a training exercise off the coast of Haifa on Monday.

By Erin Viner

Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani, 38, and Major Chen Fogel, 27, were identified as fatalities in the incident, which occurred about an hour into the drill.

Sachyani, a married father of 3, was Deputy Commander of the Ramat David Airbase in northern Israel. Fogel was Deputy Commander of the 193rd “Defenders of the West” Squadron, also at Ramat David.

The Yaltam 669 Unit, Marine Police and Shayetet 13 troops rushed to the scene. Despite “extensive resuscitation efforts, the two pilots were declared dead,” said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

A third crew member, identified as a naval officer who was serving as an aerial observer, is reportedly recovering in stable condition at the Rambam Health Care Campus after suffering moderate injuries including a fractured spine.

“On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were killed in the helicopter accident,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a statement.

“The Air Force pilots who perished in the accident were among the best of our sons,” underscored Prime Minister Bennett, adding, “The people of Israel will not forget their contribution, night and day, for the security of the state.”

Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin ordered the temporary discontinuation of training flights and grounded the maritime Panther helicopter fleet, which has been used by the Israeli navy for 5 years. He also appointed an investigative team headed by an officer identified only as “Col. T” to investigate the incident.

IAF Brig. Gen. Amir Lazar told reporters this morning that the military is working to recover all wreckage of the aircraft as part of “a thorough investigation” into cause of the crash. While all possibilities are under consideration, the IDF Spokesperson said there is no indication of foul play.