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Israeli navy to investigate deaths of 2 divers in accident

JERUSALEM, Dec. 5 (JTA) — Israel’s navy has appointed a commission to investigate the deaths of two commandos during a routine diving exercise this week in Haifa Bay. The bodies of the two — Petty Officer Yair Engel, 19, of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, and Petty Officer Matan Polivoda, 20, of Mevasseret Zion — were found Thursday afternoon. The two were found about three feet below the surface. They were tied together by a cable, which is standard procedure in diving exercises. The cable system helps ensure that if one of the divers is in trouble, the other can respond.
Both commandos had taken part in similar exercises in the past and were approaching the end of the course. According to an initial inquiry, weather conditions were normal for the drill, which took place Wednesday night. The two had apparently completed half the exercise when they carried out a status check at a little after 10 p.m. When they failed to surface as scheduled 50 minutes later, the drill commander called for them twice, then declared a state of emergency. Extensive searches were carried out through the night until the bodies were found. Navy officials instituted operational changes in the drill two years ago, after the death of another unit member in a diving accident.