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Tragedy in the Skies of Michigan

Wednesday was a tragic day for the Menorah family of Chicago, and for Orthodox Jewish campers at Michigan's Camp Agudah Midwest.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/15/2010, 3:22 PM / Last Update: 7/15/2010, 3:50 PM

Wednesday was the day after tragedy struck the Menorah family of Chicago, and a sad day for Orthodox Jewish campers at Michigan's Camp Agudah Midwest.

The bodies of three teenage girls who died in a plane crash Tuesday were brought for prayers and a final goodbye from fellow campers and staff, before being flown home to Israel. The funeral procession concluded with prayers at Congregation Or Torah in Skokie, and further services are scheduled for Friday in Israel.

The girls were killed along with their grandfather, Moshe Menorah, during a short flight to Mackinac Island on Tuesday in a tragic crash in which Menorah's grandson was the only survivor.

In addition to Menorah, age 73, granddaughters Sara Klein, 17, and Rikki and Rachel Menorah, ages 16 and 14 respectively, died in the accident.

Yossie Menorah, age 13, was airlifted to a hospital in Michigan with burns that covered 60 percent of his body. His father, Sholom, told the family by phone that the plane had split in half; Yossie survived because he had been sitting in the back of the plane upon takeoff.

Flying was a special delight for a man who had waited to share the joys of the skies with his grandchildren when they came for a visit from Israel.

Menorah, born in Haifa, had served in the IDF during the 1956 Sinai campaign alongside Moshe Dayan, who eventually became the country's Defense Minister. Two years later, Menorah moved to New York and met his wife Selma, daughter of a rabbi. The two opened a kosher meat market before Menorah went into real estate, eventually moving to the Chicago area.

The 73-year-old businessman, who owned the Skokie-based Tri-United Management firm, loved spending time with his 17 grandchildren, and was known for his honesty. “He was just a wonderful person, a wonderful businessman, very honest, a tremendous amount of integrity,” said Sharon Heahy, Tri-United's executive director of operations.

“We are stunned,” his sister-in-law, Chicago resident Chana Kovalsky, told the Chicago Tribune. “The loss of the young lives of children especially is never anything anyone can accept.”

The Beech Baron 58 aircraft, which seats four in addition to the pilots, had taken off from Chicago Executive Airport at 11:11 a.m., arriving at Mackinac County Airport in S. Ignace at 1:56 p.m. EDT. At about 5:00 p.m., Menorah refueled and took off from Mackinac, according to the flight records.

But this time a crisis developed before reaching an altitude of 1,000 feet, and eyewitnesses saw the aircraft cross over Interstate Highway 75, where it struck the median barrier and flipped over.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Aaron Sauer told the Chicago Tribune that it was too early to know what caused the crash.