JERUSALEM, Israel – The bodies the six Israeli Air Force soldiers killed in a helicopter crash Monday in Romania will be flown home on Thursday.
IDF rabbinate staff worked in a forensic lab set up at a local air force base to identify the remains of the four pilots and two aviation mechanics on board the Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter that slammed into the side of a mountain during a training exercise.
Four helicopters carrying most of the soldiers who participated in the joint training exercise with their Romanian counterparts along with about 60 soldiers from an IAF search-and-rescue unit, dogs and handlers from a canine unit, and soldiers from the medical core, left for home on Thursday morning.
The last two choppers will transport the remains of the six soldiers, whose funerals have yet to be announced.
On Wednesday, President Shimon Peres spoke about the tragedy at the annual awards ceremony for the Council for a Beautiful Israel, held at the President's Jerusalem Residence.
"We have lost six of our finest sons, six of the most beautiful of our people. Israel is not beautiful without the beauty of the Israelis themselves," the president said.
"The IDF is the most treasured asset of the Jewish people, and our sons and who fought and fell are the greatest treasures of the IDF and of us all," he said.
"Our hearts are with the families, with the parents who have lost beloved sons, with the grieving wives, one of whom is pregnant, and with the young children who have been orphaned," Peres said.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.