Air Force Launches Inquiry into Fatal Helicopter Crash

The Israeli air force has appointed a committee to investigate the cause of a helicopter crash that killed seven soldiers.

The crash occurred Sunday afternoon, after the helicopter had dropped off three soldiers in the Judean Desert as part of a training exercise.

Seconds after lifting off, the helicopter crashed back to the ground and burst into flames.

The seven killed in the crash were identified as: Maj. Eyal Geller, 33, of Ramat Gan; Capt. Ofer Schwartz, 26, of Rishon le-Zion; Master Sgt. David Weizman, 40, of Kiryat Malachi; Sgt. Guy Shapir, 20, of Kiryat Ono; Cpl. Inbal Tavisi, 20, of Petach Tikva; Cpl. Doron Ezra, 20, of Rishon le-Zion; and Cpl. Liab Filgud, 19, of Carmiel.

Two soldiers who had been sitting in the back of the helicopter were hospitalized and are in light to moderate condition.

The committee appointed by Herzl Bodinger, commander of the Israeli air force, began working immediately after the accident to determine whether the crash was caused by human error or a technical mishap.

There was no flight-data recorder, or “black box,” in the helicopter, and the pilot did not make any emergency communications before the crash. But there were some recorded communications from the flight, which the commission was planning to examine.

It will also view pictures taken by one of the soldiers who had been aboard the flight to photograph the exercise. That soldier was killed in the crash.

The Yassur-type helicopter that crashed Sunday has been used by the air force since 1969 and is considered the “backbone” of its cargo helicopters.

With its large size and two powerful engines, the helicopter has been used to transport soldiers and equipment, to evacuate wounded, to move heavy objects and to fight fires.

Annual statistics released by the Israel Defense Force last week indicated that 20 soldiers died in accidents in 1995, seven during training exercises.

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