TEL AVIV (Nov. 24)
Two Chinese nationals on an official visit to Israel were among the five people killed when a civilian helicopter crashed in the Negev early Wednesday.
The Chinese officials were part of an economic delegation visiting Israel from the autonomous region of Manchuria in northeastern China.
They were identified as Ma Dixian, mayor of Xian Yang, the largest city in Manchuria; and Shan Li, vice chairman of the Manchurian Council for Technical and Economic Development.
The remaining members of the Chinese delegation were scheduled to return home Thursday.
Three Israelis were killed in the crash. They were identified as Yoav Peleg, 45, the pilot, of Yavne; Ilan Alter, 36, deputy president of the Israeli Contractors Association, of Ramat Hasharon; and Avraham Gad, a tour guide, of Tel Aviv.
The downed helicopter had taken off at sunrise from Herzliya on a charter flight to Masada, near the Dead Sea.
It crashed near Kibbutz Bet Kama, which is on the Beersheba-Kiryat Gat road in the northern Negev.
Officials would not comment on initial reports that the pilot had flown into a power line.
A department spokesman said that the helicopter, a Bell Air 206, was regarded throughout the world as a highly efficient and safe helicopter, and that the pilot was experienced.