IAF grounds all Cobra helicopters after pilot, navigator killed in crash near Kibbutz Ginegar. Shocking footage captures horrific moments as fire engulfs wreckage. Witnesses say propeller detached, chopper spiraled to ground before being engulfed in flames.
The IAF has grounded all Cobra helicopters pending an investigation into the incident Wednesday evening in which a Cobra crashed near Kibbutz Ginegar in northern Israel. The army has confirmed the deaths of two pilots in the horrific crash. Their families have been notified.
Air Force believes technical malfunction cause of Cobra helicopter crash, which took place 10 minutes after takeoff. All choppers will likely be grounded.
An initial inquiry into the mishap determined that the helicopter in question had taken off from the nearby Ramat David airbase a mere 10 minutes before the crash, and had been flying with a second Cobra in formation as part of a routine training mission.
Immediately after the first helicopter spiraled to the ground, the pilot of the second chopper landed in close proximity to aid the downed aircraft.
The crashed chopper burst into flames and loud explosions were reported, apparently caused by the detonation of ammunition the Cobra had been carrying.
Witnesses said the propeller had detached in mid-air. The severed tail of the helicopter was visible.
Rescue services rushed to the scene of the crash, but were initially unable to approach the debris due to the extent of the fire blazing.
'Squadron flew missions during war'
MDA paramedic Elad Bachar was first on the scene: "One helicopter crashed and is on fire in the fields of Ginegar, the debris is scattered over a massive radius. Only now, a long time after the crash, can we get near the chopper. At this point, due to the breadth of the area covered in debris, it's impossible to tell whether there are additional casualties."
The parent squadron the helicopter belongs to has an impressive combat record, and took part in numerous operations and sorties during the Second Lebanon War.
Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, received word of the incident during a speaking engagement at a ceremony held in honor of fallen soldiers in Ramle.
The last crash involving Cobra attack helicopters was in July 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. An IAF officer was killed when two choppers collided near the border.
The Cobra helicopter (known in the IAF as 'vipers') has long been in use by the Israeli Air Force, and its roles include, among other missions, targeted killings of terrorists.
It is primarily intended for assaults on ground targets, and is armed with anti-tank missiles, two rocket launchers and a tri-barrel 20mm. It is based on the UH-1 Huey helicopter made by Bell (it is also known as a Bell-205).
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