Officer who survived helicopter crash says he tried to pull the pilots out

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The naval officer who escaped yesterday’s helicopter crash says he tried multiple times to pull the pilots out of the aircraft but was unable to do so.

“I was able to get myself out of the sinking helicopter and then, after many attempts to get my friends, [Lt. Col. Erez] Sachyani and [Maj. Chen] Fogel, out, I was rescued by a naval police patrol,” says the officer, Capt. Ron Berman, who until now has not been identified by name.

In a video statement, Berman sends condolences to the families of the two pilots, who died in the crash after they were unable to escape the cockpit, for as yet unknown reasons.

“I send a lot, a lot of strength and love to the families, to [Sachyani’s widow] Lilach… I love you, be strong,” he says, his voice breaking.

Maj. Ron Berman, right, a naval officer who escaped a helicopter crash, shakes hands with the head of the Israeli Navy, Maj. Gen. David Sa’ar Salame at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center on January 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Berman, who was moderately injured in the crash with a broken vertebra and mild hypothermia, is visited in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, where he is recuperating, by the heads of the Israeli Navy and Israeli Air Force.

“You acted bravely and calmly, I am glad you’re alive. You’re receiving excellent care. Come back to us fast, they’re waiting for you at home and in the squadron,” IAF chief Amikam Norkin tells Berman.

Navy chief David Saar Salame lauds the officer, saying he “did everything he could and everything possible” to help the pilots.

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