Pilot hurt in fatal chopper crash moves to recovery
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Pilot hurt in fatal chopper crash moves to recovery

Helicopter crewman responds, moves arms and legs, days after accident that killed his colleague

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter (Mor Tzidon/ Israeli Air Force/Flickr)
An Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter (Mor Tzidon/ Israeli Air Force/Flickr)

An Israeli Air Force pilot who was seriously injured earlier this month in a crash that killed his fellow crew member was moved to a recovery ward on Thursday, after doctors determined that his condition had sufficiently improved, a hospital official said.

The pilot was brought to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in critical condition on August 7, after the helicopter he was flying in crashed at a nearby air force base due to an apparent steering problem. For security reasons, he can only be identified by his rank of lieutenant and by the first Hebrew letter of his name, Aleph.

The lead pilot of the Apache attack helicopter, Maj. (res.) David “Dudu” Zohar, was killed in the crash.

Lt. Aleph underwent multiple hours-long surgeries after the accident and was then moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit, under sedation and connected to a ventilator. After a few days, he showed signs of responsiveness, but was kept in the unit until Thursday.

“The patient was brought to [intensive care] directly from the operating room in very serious condition,” said Dr. Moti Klein, the head of Soroka’s intensive care unit.

“After about five days in the unit, his condition improved, his responsiveness improved, and he was able to breathe on his own,” he said. “Now, 10 days after we got him, the patient is being moved to recovery.”

In a statement, a hospital spokesperson said the family wanted to thank the Soroka medical teams for their “humane and professional work, which went above and beyond the norm.”

Maj. (res.) David 'Dudi' Zohar, 43, of Haifa was killed in a helicopter crash at a base in southern Israel on August 7, 2017 (Israel Defense Forces)
Maj. (res.) David ‘Dudi’ Zohar, 43, of Haifa was killed in a helicopter crash at a base in southern Israel on August 7, 2017 (Israel Defense Forces)

Shortly before 9 p.m. on August 7, Zohar reported that the Apache attack helicopter was experiencing trouble during a flight in the Ramon Air Base in the Negev Desert. It crashed on the runway 11 minutes later as it was coming in for an emergency landing.

Following the accident, then-IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel grounded the entire Apache fleet until a full investigation of the crash could be conducted. As of Thursday, the helicopters remain out of service.

Israel has two squadrons of Apaches that fly out of the Ramon Air Base. The major and lieutenant were members of the air force’s 190th Squadron, also known as the Magic Touch Squadron, which flies the Boeing Apache, specifically the AH-64A Peten (Cobra) model.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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