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IAF Delegation to Romania in Search for the Six

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Elad Benari

( The search for the six IDF soldiers whose helicopter crashed Monday afternoon during a joint military exercise in Romania resumes this morning. The soldiers were participating in an 11-day Blue Sky 2010 joint military drill.

Late last night the IDF cleared for publication the names of the soldiers who were aboard the helicopter that crashed:
Lieutenant Colonel Avner Goldman (48) of Modi’in
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Shifenbauer (43) of Kidron
Major Yahel Keshet (33) of Hatzerim
Major Lior Shai (28) of Tel Nof
First Lieutenant Nir Lakrif (25) of Tel Nof
Sergeant Major Oren Cohen (24) of Rehovot

The six Air Force soldiers include four pilots and two mechanics. A Romanian soldier was also on board. An IAF plane has departed for Romania, carrying medical teams and research and rescue teams.

Foreign news agencies, quoting a Romanian mountain rescue member, said on Monday evening that all six Israelis and the Romanian were killed and their bodies found, but the IDF has not confirmed the report. Military spokesmen explained that any confirmation may have to wait for identification of the bodies because other helicopters also were seen flying in the area.
The remote location of the crash site, approximately 7.300 feet high in the central Romania mountains, has delayed search and rescue efforts. Inclement weather conditions and heavy fog in the area also made it more difficult to search for and locate bodies.

Air Force Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Shefer said Monday night that the joint exercise with Romania has been suspended as a result of the crash. IAF training flights in Israel have also been suspended for 24 hours.

Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nechushtan appointed a team led by a Brigadier General to probe the crash incident. The inquiry is expected to take place in cooperation with the Romanian Air Force.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is currently in Washington, was updated on the situation just prior to his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is continuing to be updated as events unfold.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday night that the Prime Minister was closely monitoring the search efforts for the missing soldiers and is in contact with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Barak.
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