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Astronaut son dies in W Bank crash
Son of Israeli astronaut who died in space shuttle disaster is killed in air crash.
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2009 16:36 GMT
The F-16, for which a search has been mounted, crashed on a routine flight over Hebron [AFP]

The pilot son of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, has been  killed after his fighter plane crashed in the West Bank, the Israeli military has said.

The F-16 was on a routine training flight over the occupied territory when it crashed on Sunday killing Asaf Ramon, officials said.

A Palestinian eyewitness told Channel 2 TV that the plane flew over the southern West Bank at low altitude before crashing.

"There was a huge fire," the unidentified witness said.

Major general Ido Nehushtan, the Israeli air force commander, called an official inquiry and halted training in Israel's F-16 squadrons "until further notice" the military said in a statement.

Shuttle explosion

Asaf's father Ilan was one of seven crew members killed in the Columbia shuttle when it exploded shorlty before landing.

A former fighter pilot who took part in Israel's bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, he was the payload specialist on the shuttle flight.

The space shuttle Columbia broke apart about 20 km over Texas as it headed for landing on February 1, 2003.

Seven astronauts - six Americans and Ramon - died after spacecraft's heat shield suffered damage caused during its launch two weeks earlier.

His son, the oldest of his four children, graduated from a flight school in June.

Source:
Agencies
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