Yesterday afternoon, during a routine training flight in Romania, an IAF “Yas’ur” helicopter (American made CH-53) crashed in Romania. Six Israeli and one Romanian air crew members are missing: Lt. Col. Avner Goldman, Lt. Col. Daniel Shipenbauer, Captain Yahel Keshet, Captain Lior Shai, Lieutenant Nir Lakrif and Sergeant Oren Cohen.
On board of the helicopter were seven air crew members: four pilots, two flown mechanics, and one observer of the Romanian air force. Romanian rescue forces are searching the crash area for the missing persons.
IAF and IDF representatives contacted the families of the missing soldiers.
IAF Hercules plane took off to Romania this morning, and is expected to arrive to the crash area at noon.
Head of the IAF command center, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shefer said this morning that the training was planned to continue until Thursday. Given the circumstances, it was decided not to stop the training, and return all Squadron members back to Israel.
Brig. Gen. Shefer explained that the military exercise was part of a joint-training program that was planned long time ago, and is part of the international cooperation policy of the IAF. “Our main purpose is flight training through unfamiliar terrain. The helicopter was fully functional when it deployed and there were no signs of malfunction. The aircrew was composed of highly trained and experienced professionals”.
IAF commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan and his Romanian colleague, Maj. Gen. Ion Stanciu has agreed on a mutual investigation. The Israeli investigation team will be headed by Brig. Gen. Shlomo Mashiach, former head of Helicopter Squadron.
In addition Maj. Gen Nehushtan ordered all aircraft but operational flights to be grounded.