Photo Credit: courtesy, Shikma Fields
The crash site in the first moments after the accident.

An Israel Air Force flight instructor and cadet were killed at around 11:30 am Tuesday morning when the light, single-engine training aircraft they were using crashed near Kibbutz Mishmar HaNegev shortly after takeoff.

Kibbutz Shoval resident Maj. (res) Itay Zaiden, 42 flew F-16s during his service. Rishon Lezion resident Corp. Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, was four months into his training with the Israel Air Force when he and his instructor took off from the IAF Flight School at Hatzerim Air Base Tuesday.

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The two-seat Grob G-120 ‘Snunit’ (Swallow) aircraft made it as far as a field north of Be’er Sheva, where it crashed, killing both, scattering parts across the field.

“When I arrived at the scene, I found two young men who sustained critical injuries due to their aircraft having crashed. Unfortunately, they were both pronounced dead at the scene,” said United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yosef Abu Jafer, one of the first responders who arrived at the scene.

A military helicopter from the 669 Search and Rescue Unit also arrived at the scene of the crash, as did paramedics with Magen David Adom.

The bodies of the two air men were first taken by helicopter to Assaf Harofeh Hospital in the central region before they were transferred to the nation’s Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine. The families have been notified.

It’s not yet clear what caused the crash. Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent condolences to the families of both men and vowed the IDF will do everything to investigate the incident and “draw the necessary conclusions. This is a serious accident that has inflicted a heavy toll on us,” he said.

This is the first fatal training accident to take place since 2008. According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman, training flights with this type of aircraft usually take less than an hour and instructors can control the plane if need be.

A probe into the crash is being led by a senior officer with the rank of colonel and will include the participation of Elbit, the firm in charge of the plane’s maintenance. All training flights have been suspended until the investigation into the accident has been completed.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.