A British tourist and three others have been killed after a helicopter crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the Israeli coast, police said today.
Witnesses watched in horror as the civilian helicopter spun out of control and splashed into the ocean.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the helicopter crashed about 300 metres from the seaside city of Netanya this afternoon.
All four people on board, including the pilot, were killed.
He said one passenger was a British tourist and the others were Israelis.
The British tourist has not been identified. The Jerusalem Post has reported that it was a male in his 40s.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz identified the pilot as Ran Iapid, who worked for El Al. One of the other casualties was named locally as Yoav Tamir, a co-owner of Tamir Airways.
Divers have already pulled the bodies from the sea.
Eyal Amrani, a lifeguard working at the beach, told Haaretz that he heard an unusual noise before the helicopter hit the water.
He said that he and another lifeguard called emergency services and then rushed into the water.
‘When we reached the site of the crash, we found two bodies and pulled them to the coast,’ Amrani was quoted as saying.
When they realised there had been four people on board the aircraft, he said, they dove back out into the sea.
They found the bodies of the other two people still strapped to their seats in the wreckage of the helicopter.
A guest of a nearby hotel said the helicopter was slowly descending towards the water when it suddenly flipped 90 degrees.
‘The propeller hit the water and broke off and the helicopter dove into the water,’ he said. ‘I was in shock.’
Rosenfeld said the crash was probably caused by a mechanical malfunction.
Tamir is a civilian aviation company that offers recreational air excursions for tourists.
The Israel Aviation Authority said that the helicopter had taken off from Sde Dov airport and was heading north when it crashed. The IAA has taken over the investigation of the crash.