IDF: Fatal accident in April caused by tank veering off course, catching fire

IDF: Fatal accident in April caused by tank veering off course, catching fire

Army investigation finds an object got stuck in the armored vehicle’s turret, sparking a blaze that killed a soldier, injured 3 near Egyptian border

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

IDF soldier Eliyahu Drori, who was killed in a tank accident (IDF spokesperson's office)
IDF soldier Eliyahu Drori, who was killed in a tank accident (IDF spokesperson's office)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday released the results of its investigation into a tank accident earlier this year in which a soldier, Sgt. Eliyahu Drori, was killed and three others were wounded, finding that a fire ignited in the vehicle as the driver tried to prevent it from tipping over.

In light of the probe, which was presented to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot late last month, the IDF Armored Corps planned to better train soldiers on how to act in case of a fire in the tank and to review how soldiers operate the armored vehicles at night, the army said.

This investigation was led by the IDF Ground Forces. A separate probe by the Military Police to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing is ongoing, the IDF said.

On April 14, the tank in question was dispatched to the Egyptian border after the military received reports of a smuggling attempt near the Nitzana crossing.

While traveling to the scene, the driver veered off the path and got too close to the slope leading to the Nitzana riverbed, causing the vehicle to fall in.

Illustrative. An Israeli Merkava tank is seen along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz on June 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The army’s investigation found that the tank operator, from the 188th Armored Brigade, tried to keep the vehicle from completely flipping over by correctly using the accepted method of swiveling the gun turret.

The probe found that part of the tank caught fire after an object got stuck in the gun turret’s swiveling mechanism, the army said. The military would not elaborate on the nature of the object that obstructed the mechanism.

The armored vehicle filled with flames and smoke, which is believed to have been what killed Drori, 20, and injured the other soldiers. Two of the soldiers were seriously wounded, while a third was lightly hurt.

Drori, from the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, was laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Har Herzl military cemetery a day later.

The investigation into the tank accident was led by Col. Yair Or, the head of the armored vehicles department in the IDF Ground Forces. The findings were presented to Drori’s family and those of the injured soldiers.

“Many lessons were learned that will be applied in the relevant units and frameworks. Among the main lessons learned were the need to clarify the procedures for armored vehicles and the way to operate it in different lighting conditions,” the army said.

In a statement, the military said the different regional commands were reviewing their procedures for how and when to use tanks’ lighting equipment during operations.

The IDF said it was also reviewing the way in which the Armored Corps deals with fires inside tanks, in terms of both equipment and protocols.

The army was also looking into new ways of protecting the soldiers inside tanks from things like falls and crashes, besides the defenses on the outside of the vehicle.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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