Itongadol.- An Israeli Air Force fighter jet crashed at sea opposite the Gaza coast Sunday. The pilot and navigator managed to evacuate and parachuted to the waters.
The two survived the incident and where found at sea by the IDF 669 unit and taken for treatment. During the flight the aircraft\’s engine shut down. The IAF has begun investigating the incident.
The F-16 took off Sunday afternoon from the Hazerim base in Israel\’s south. During the flight, the pilot and navigator noticed the engine had shut down and after multiple attempts to restart it they called in to report the malfunction and inform the ground crew that they were abandoning the aircraft.
After the two landed in the sea, the 669 elite rescue unit was alerted and successfully rescued them with the use of rubber boats. The two pilots waited in the water for about an hour until the rescue force arrived via helicopter.
An initial investigation revealed that the cause for the crash was a technical malfunction in the plane\’s engine.
In wake of the accident, all Ra\’am and Sufa F-16 plains used in training exercises were grounded until the investigation into the crash is completed.
"This is the first time that a Ra\’am or Sufa plane, both of which have the same engine crashes as a result from a mid-air engine shutdown," a senior IAF official said.
"The chances of finding the planes engine within the depths of the sea are slim now, but we will try to collect the debris that can be found which we can hope will aid us in understanding what happened. An American engine manufacture will probably take part in the investigation," he added.
Prof. Zeev Rothstein, director of the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, to which the crew was taken, noted that though the crewmen spent at least an hour in water, they did not suffer from hypothermia.
"We hope to release them soon," he added, "though we usually keep such cases under surveillance for at least 24 hours."