An IDF lieutenant and a sergeant were killed and four soldiers were injured when a self-propelled howitzer in which they were traveling flipped over during a training exercise in the Golan Heights late Tuesday night, the army said.
One of the soldiers was severely injured and taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital. The army said there was no immediate threat to his life. A second was moderately wounded, and the other two soldiers were lightly hurt.
The soldiers who died in the accident were later named as Lieutenant Avshalom Armoni and Sgt. Avinoam Cohen.
As a result of the accident, the military called off all exercises until Sunday, beginning Wednesday afternoon. In addition, no mobile cannons will be allowed to drive after dark until further notice, the army said.
The soldiers were members of the 411th Battalion of the 282nd Regiment in the IDF’s Artillery Corps. Their names have yet to be released by the military.
They were taking part in an exercise for a company and battalion commanders course, driving in their mobile cannon from the area of the Nafah military base toward the nearby Wasset intersection.
As they traveled down a dirt road parallel to the Route 978 highway, they had to make a U-turn. When they started to make the turn, their cannon was positioned head-on with a line of vehicles that were also taking part in the exercise. The driver reported that the lights of the oncoming cars were “blinding him,” the army said.
While continuing to make the three-point turn, the self-propelled cannon went off the path and fell 26 feet (eight meters) into a ditch, an IDF spokesperson said.
Two teams of experts — one led by a brigadier general from the IDF Ground Forces and the second from the army’s company and battalion commanders course — will review the crash in order to determine how it happened and how it could have been prevented. It will also be investigated by the Military Police.
According to the army, the two main questions in the accident are: why the vehicle went off the path and whether the crash could have been prevented after the driver reported that he’d been blinded.
The military censor initially barred publication about the crash until the families of the soldiers could be informed.