A malfunction of the left motor in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) helicopter caused it to crash into the sea off the coast of Haifa on Monday night, killing LTC. Erez Sachyani and Maj. Chen Fogel, an initial inquiry shows.
Based on the testimony of Captain Ron Birman, a Navy reconnaissance officer who was on board the helicopter and survived the crash, there was apparently a technical malfunction in one of the engines when it was in the air. After hitting the sea in an emergency landing, the helicopter floated so Birman managed to escape.
The two pilots were trapped in the helicopter that sank in the water, and they were later rescued by divers. Birman, who was moderately injured in the crash, tried to rescue the other two crew members but did not succeed.
The pilots did not have time to report the incident, and the IDF launched its rescue efforts following the disappearance of the helicopter from the radar.
The IAF said that the Eurocopter AS-565 Panther helicopter which crashed is considered “extremely reliable,” has flown in the Air Force for thousands of hours over the course of 25 years, and “such an abnormal malfunction has never happened.”
The IAF’s Eurocopter array will remain grounded until the investigators have a clear picture of what transpired during the accident. The rest of Air Force returned to routine flights.
Senior Air Force personnel praised the conduct of the pilots in the emergency situation and that of Birman.
Navy commander Maj. Gen. David Saar Salama and IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin visited Birman at Rambam Hospital in Haifa on Tuesday and expressed their appreciation for the calculated conduct and calmness demonstrated by him during the crash.
“‘You did everything you could and everything possible, you acted responsibly, striving for contact and with comradery. Hold on, I know you are strong, we are here for everything you need. We are waiting for you to come back,” Salama told him.
Norkin told Birman that he “acted with courage and composure, I am glad that you are alive. Come back soon, we are waiting for you at home and also in the squadron.”