Two Israel Air Force (IAF) officers were killed on Monday evening when an IDF Atalef-type helicopter crashed off the shores of the city of Haifa during a training flight.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military identified the two crew members killed in the crash as 38-year-old Lt.-Col. Erez Sahiyani of Ramat David, and 27-year-old Major Chen Fogel from Haifa.
Sahiyani served as deputy commander of the Ramat David air force base southeast of Haifa. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Fogel served as a helicopter pilot and deputy commander of the 193rd Squadron ('Defenders of the West'), and was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to major.
Three crew members were on the helicopter, a patrol officer and two pilots. The patrol officer was rescued and evacuated in moderate condition to Rambam Hospital. The two pilots were pronounced dead after resuscitation attempts.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that "the families have been notified, the IDF expresses its condolences and will continue to accompany them." The statement also said that the commander of the IAF, Major General Amikam Norkin, has ordered the grounding of the Atalef helicopters and also ordered the halting of training flights in the Air Force. In addition, the Air Force commander appointed an investigation team.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said following the accident, "I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter accident and wish a complete recovery to the injured. I spoke with the Chief of Staff, and I promise that the IDF will investigate the incident and draw the necessary conclusions. I would like to thank the rescue forces who acted quickly and under difficult conditions to locate the crew."
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented on the helicopter accident.
"This is a very sad night. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter accident and a speedy recovery to the injured officer. The Air Force pilots who fell in the accident were among our best. The people of Israel will not forget their contribution, night and day, to the security of the state. May their memory be a blessing," said Bennett.
The Director-General of Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Professor Miki Halberthal, issued an update on the condition of the crew member who was evacuated to the hospital.
"He arrived at the hospital about two hours ago, he was transferred by the naval police to the port of Haifa and then evacuated by Magen David Adom. He arrived fully conscious, was examined in the emergency room, he is completely stable, he is currently in the intensive care unit with some hypothermia," he said.
The cause of the crash remains unclear at this stage.