The two people killed in a light plane crash in the south on Tuesday were a trainer and cadet at the military’s flight school, the Israel Defense Forces said.
IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said the military was investigating what caused the two-seat Snunit training plane to crash on Tuesday morning near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev after it set out on a routine flight from Hatzerim Air Base.
The trainer was later named as Maj. (res.) Itay Zayden, a 42-year-old from Kibbutz Shoval. The cadet was named as Corporal Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, from Rishon Lezion.
Seiden was a reserve officer who previously served in a F-16 squadron and Ben-Bassa was in his fourth month of a pilot-training course, according to Zilberman.
משתתפים בצער הכבד של משפחת בן-בסה שאיבדה את בנה ליהוא, חניך בקורס טיס מזה ארבעה חודשים ומשפחת זיידן מקיבוץ שובל, שאיבדה את איתי, בעל ואבא, שהשתחרר לאחרונה משירות קבע כטייס ושימש מדריך בקורס טיס במילואים.
תנחומינו גם לקהילת שובל.
הלב שלנו נקרע. יהי זכרם ברוך. pic.twitter.com/BSWcvnmP7d
— התנועה הקיבוצית (@KibbutzMov) November 24, 2020
“It is not clear if it was caused by a technical malfunction or human error,” he said in a briefing with reporters. “From the best of our understanding there was no discussion between the plane and the tower and the weather conditions were good.”
Zilberman said the lack of communication between the plane and control tower was hindering the investigation, as it was unclear when the problems aboard the aircraft started.
He also said that Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin halted all training flights until further notice and would appoint a colonel to lead an investigation into the crash.
Zilberman said the military would speak about the crash with all cadets in the pilots course.
It was the first such fatal incident since 2008, when a trainer and cadet were killed aboard a different type of training plane.
“Our hearts are with the families of the IAF reserve pilot and flight school cadet who were killed today in a training flight crash. The loss of such young life is heart-breaking,” President Reuven Rivlin wrote on Twitter.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also issued a statement offering his condolences to the family.
“This is a serious accident that exacted a heavy price from us,” said Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff. “The IDF will do everything to probe the incident and draw the necessary conclusions.”
Following Tuesday’s crash, firefighters, paramedics and an air force helicopter arrived at the scene, where charred parts of the plane were scattered.
A medic said forces arrived when the plane was still on fire and were witness to the “difficult scene” of the two unconscious men after extinguishing the blaze.
They were initially listed as in critical condition, but medics subsequently pronounced their death.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.