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Israeli pilot Assaf Ramon buried next to astronaut father

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

September 14, 2009 | 4:22 pm

Israeli pilot Assaf Ramon was buried next to his father, astronaut Ilan Ramon, a day after he was killed in a training accident.

Ramon, 20, who was made an Air Force captain posthumously, died Sunday in a crash in the Hebron Hills while flying an F-16 aircraft as part of advanced training. He had completed the basic training course for pilots with honors in June, receiving his wings from President Shimon Peres. He had escaped death in a training flight in March.

His father, Israel’s first astronaut, was killed aboard the U.S. space shuttle Columbia in 2003 when it broke apart upon its return to earth.

The funeral at Kibbutz Nahalal was closed to the media at the request of Ramon’s mother, Rona.

“The State of Israel is lowering its flag, as a whole nation mourns the death of our fallen son,” Peres said in his eulogy. “All of our hearts are broken today because the personal child of the Ramon family was a child of all of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who postponed a meeting with U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell in order to attend the funeral, said earlier Monday that Ramon’s death was on the level of “a biblical tragedy.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an interview with Israel Radio said the news of Ramon’s death was “like a punch in the stomach.”

The Air Force continued to search for wreckage from the crash. Reports citing military sources said it is likely the investigation into the crash will take some time.

Though a mechanical failure is one possibility, reports say the Air Force is looking into loss of consciousness or human error as likely causes.

Assaf Ramon, the oldest of four children, was 15 when his father died. He had said he would like to become a pilot like his father and perhaps even an astronaut.

Ilan Ramon was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and participated in the 1981 strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

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