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January 4, 2022 1:40 pm
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Condition of IDF Helicopter Crash Survivor Improves: ‘A Miracle? It Seems So’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Policemen speak with Israelis as they hold parts of a military helicopter at the shore after it crashed off the coast of the Mediterranean near Haifa, as local media said, on Jan. 3, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Rami Shlush

The condition of an Israeli soldier who survived a helicopter crash that killed two pilots on Monday has improved significantly, and he has been moved out of the intensive care unit of Rambam Hospital.

Dr. Avi Weissman, director of medical operations at Rambam, said the soldier was transferred to the orthopedic department and was “visited by his parents, is fully conscious, communicates and speaks to the point,” Israeli outlet N12 reported.

“He was very lucky and we hope that in the next few days he will be released for treatment, perhaps at home,” Weissman added. “A miracle? It seems so.”

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Nurkin visited the recovering soldier, saying he only hopes “that he will be healthy. We are glad he is with us.”

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The two pilots killed in the crash off the coast of Haifa have been identified as Maj. Chen Fogel, aged 27, and Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani, a 38-year-old married father of three. The Air Force has since grounded its entire fleet of Panther helicopters, pending an investigation.

The recovering soldier reportedly said that the crew attempted an emergency landing after the left engine of the helicopter caught fire.

Following emergency procedures, the soldier jumped from the helicopter and suffered an injury to his back, but managed to swim away from the crash and was picked up by a Navy rescue boat.

Investigators have theorized that, although the helicopter landed at sea, the deceased crew members may have lost consciousness due to smoke inhalation and drowned. The precise cause of the crash remains unknown, the military said.

“Yesterday, we went through a difficult night and this is a difficult day for the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said following the pilots’ death. “We lost two sons, two pilots, from among the best of our sons, in an accident at sea.”

“I want to join in the sorrow of the Fogel and Sachyani families at their loss of people who dedicated their lives to the security of Israel, day after day, night after night,” he added.

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