UPDATED: Bodies of Six Israelis Killed in Thai Plane Crash Returning to Israel

UPDATED: Bodies of Six Israelis Killed in Thai Plane Crash Returning to Israel

Rescue workers at the scene of the plane crash on Monday. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Phuket, Thailand

September 17, 2007

After painstaking work to identify the bodies of those killed in Sunday's Thai plane crash, envoys are returning to Israel six of the Israelis who were identified.

128 passengers were on board flight 0G-269, a One-Two-Go budget carrier that split in two and burst into flames as it attempted a failed landing, making it Thailand’s deadliest plane crash since 1998. Authorities attributed the crash to poor weather conditions.

Among the passengers on board were French, German, Israeli, Australian and British nationals. 

With many of the dead severely burnt, positive identifications required the expertise of forensic experts. With the arrival of an Israeli forensic team and police pathologists on Tuesday, the bodies of all but two Israelis have been positively identified.

DNA samples, dental records and fingerprints of the missing Israelis from the Israeli Defense Forces were employed to help in the identification.

Many of the Israelis who visit Thailand do so after completing their military service with the IDF. 

Most of these Israelis meet up with each other over Shabbat dinners and Jewish holidays at the Chabad centers in Bangkok, Ko Samui and Phuket. In the past few days, some 4,000 Israelis have been at one of Thailand’s Chabad centers to celebrate Rosh Hashana that began on Wednesday night and ended Friday.

Because of their regular contact with visiting Israelis, Chabad Shluchim know how and where to reach them as they travel beyond cell reception points. When word of the crash reached Israel, phone lines in Phuket’s Chabad house were jammed with callers from overseas trying to reach their relatives.

Rabbi Aharon Solomon, the Chabad shliach to Phuket, began calling local hospitals as soon as the first of the victims were brought in, and was first to make contact with Israeli survivors. 600 Israelis observed Rosh Hashana with him at the Chabad Center in Phuket.

Rabbi Nehemia Wilhelm, Chabad representative in Bangkok, flew Sunday with Israeli consul in Thailand, Hanoch Amedi, and the Israel Police attaché in Thailand, by military plane to help in disaster relief efforts. Rabbi Wilhelm, who served a critical role in helping Israelis in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, knew some of the Israelis who were planning to fly to Phuket after spending Rosh Hashana with Chabad in Bangkok, and has already visited some of the injured in the hospitals.

"Their survival is a sheer miracle," Wilhelm told Galei Tzahal, IDF radio earlier today speaking from Phuket. "They survived with broken bones, but they managed to get out through the emergency exit as soon as the plane crashed."

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