The bodies of an Israeli pilot and navigator whose F-16I plane crashed in the Ramon crater during a training fight late Wednesday night were located Thursday afternoon following a long search which lasted throughout the night and morning hours.
Air Force Commander Ido Nehushtan arrived at the families' homes on Thursday afternoon to deliver the devastating news of their sons' death.
Tragically the pilot, 28-year old Amichay Itkis of Sde Warburg, had an older brother, Barak, who was killed while serving as a young officer in the Navy in 1998. Barak dreamed of becoming a pilot in the Air Force, but suffered vision impairment that denied him the job.
Itkis was the deputy commander of his squadron and recently left the position in order to complete academic studies. He was recently engaged to be married. He was survived by his parents and sister.
IAF chief arrives at Emanuel Levy's home (Photo: Shiran Granot)
Emanuel Levy, the navigator, was 30 years old and a resident of Ma'ale Adumim. Emanuel was his parents' eldest son. His neighbors described a good person who liked to help people. "He was addicted to the army and wanted to be a career officer all his life," one of the neighbors said. "I will never forget his uproarious laughter."
Levy was stationed in IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv, but both crew members continued to carry out regular training flights as per IAF standards.
Soldiers and rescue forces searched the area throughout the night for pieces of the fallen plane. They said one of the problems encountered in the search is the sandy bottom of the crater, in which metallic particles have been lodged, making a search from the air difficult.
Search at crash site (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)
Four F-16I aircraft, the air force's newest plane, took part in routine training over the Ramon Crater in good weather. At some point, one of the planes suddenly fell to the ground from a height of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet), apparently failing to report any problem before the disaster. Another aircraft observed the plunge but apparently did not realize it would hit the ground.
It appears that human error was the cause of the accident, perhaps loss of orientation, but all other planes of this type were grounded immediately. Within a few days it should be possible to rule out technical fault as the cause of the disaster.
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