JERUSALEM (Nov. 24)
An Israeli passenger tossed into the sea during the weekend crash of a hijacked Ethiopian airliner said he managed to rescue a woman and baby who also were on the plane.
When the plane hit the ocean Saturday off the Comoro Islands, “I felt a powerful shaking,” Lior Fuchs, 23, told Israel Radio. “Water started gushing into the plane. Somehow, I don’t know how, I managed to get out of the plane.”
Fuchs, a resident of a moshav in the northern Negev, said he swam over to a woman and baby and freed them from the wreckage before the three got in a boat.
Seven other Israelis were on the jet, which crashed off the Comoros, an Islamic country on a group of islands off Mozambique, after it ran out of fuel. At least 55 people of the more than 170 aboard survived the crash. By Sunday, more than 70 bodies had been retrieved.
Israel dispatched a plane carrying medical and technical crews to help locate survivors and identify the dead.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official dispatched to the Comoros to find out the fate of the seven other Israelis said he could not confirm reports of a second Israeli survivor.
The other Israeli passengers were identified as: Shraga Bar Nissna, Amram Ben David, Gadi Levy and Yehuda Soroka, all employees of Israeli Aircraft Industries; Yechezkel Raz and Eliezer Levkovitch, two Israeli businessmen; and Tel Aviv student Ya’acov Braun.
Israel does not have diplomatic ties with the Comoro Islands.
The plane, which had originated in New Delhi, had made a stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where as many as 11 hijackers apparently boarded.
The hijackers demanded that the plane fly to Australia, according to reports.
But the plane ran out of fuel near the Comoros.
“At some point, the pilot got on the loudspeaker and said that one of the engines had shut down, and that the second one would in a few minutes,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs, a former paratrooper who was on his way home to Israel after a post- army, six-month tour of Africa, said it was clear to him that they would be making an emergency landing.
“A friend and I decided to get up and go to the emergency exits to prepare to help people off after the emergency landing,” Fuchs said.
“When we hit the water, there was a powerful shaking, and water started gushing in,” he said. “The plane broke into three parts.” Fuchs said his life preserver came off during the crash, probably saving his life.
“It freed me of the straps, which were strangling me. I somehow managed to get up to the surface. If I had it on, I might have been stuck in the wreckage.”
Fuchs said he never saw his friend, or the other Israelis, after the crash.