Two Israeli Air Force pilots were killed in a helicopter crash late last night off the northern coast of Haifa during a training exercise. A third crew member survived with moderate injuries.
The pair were later named as Lieutenant Colonel Erez Sachyani, 38, and Major Hen Fogel, 27. The third person was a naval officer. The type of helicopter is typically manned by a pilot, co-pilot and a naval officer.
A statement issued by the Israeli military earlier today said: "After extensive resuscitation efforts, the two pilots were declared dead."
The navy helicopter, a Eurocopter AS565 Panther known by the Israeli Air Force as an "Atalef" is primarily used for reconnaissance missions at sea. According to the Times of Israel, the air force choppers are scheduled to be replaced in the next two years with the US-made Seahawk helicopter, a naval-focused version of the Blackhawk currently used by the air force.
Footage has been shared on social media showing the helicopter appearing to catch fire before crashing into the Mediterranean Sea.
Following the incident, Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin announced a temporary halt on training exercises and grounded the fleet of Panther helicopters. An investigation has also been opened to establish the cause of the crash.