Helicopter Down Off Coast of Haifa, One Airman Survives

YERUSHALAYIM -
An Israeli army flare illuminating the sky during a search for survivors after a helicopter crashed off the coast of Haifa, Monday night. (Alon Nadav/Flash90)

An Israeli Navy helicopter crashed off the coast of northern Israel on Monday night with three crew members, an aerial observer and two pilots, on board.

Search-and-rescue teams from the Yaltam, Unit 669, Marine Police and Shayetet 13 troops, were sent to the scene and pulled one person from the water and administered first aid at the scene. The injured airman was evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he was said to be in light condition.

About an hour later, the other two were extricated from the wreckage, as flares lit up the night sky. After extensive resuscitation efforts, the two pilots were declared dead. The victim’s families have been notified.

The helicopter, an Israel Navy Atalef AS565 Panther, went down off the port city of Haifa, near the center for marine studies at Bat Galim, the military said.

Video footage taken just after the crash showed flaming wreckage not far from the coast.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing what looked like a fireball fall from the sky into the water, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The Atalef is a medium-weight multipurpose twin-engine helicopter used by the Navy for a variety of missions including search and rescue and combat support. Israel acquired five AS565s in 1996. This is the second time one has crashed.

The cause of the crash Monday night is not yet known.

The Commanding Officer of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, has ordered the temporary discontinuation of training flights in the IAF, as well as use of the “Atalef” array.

In addition, the Commanding Officer of the IAF has appointed an investigative team headed by Col. T to investigate the incident.