Former senior Israeli official Haim Geron has been killed in a plane crash near the Greek island of Samos. Geron was among the witnesses in the ongoing corruption trial of ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
The light plane, carrying Geron and his wife Esther, crashed into the sea close to the Samos airport late on Monday. The former official, who used to serve as the deputy director-general for engineering and licensing at the Israeli Communications Ministry, and his wife, both 69, were the only occupants on the aircraft.
The bodies of the victims were recovered several hours after the crash by the Greek coast guard, which searched the area with boats and divers. “We recovered two bodies from the spot,” a coast guard official told Reuters. “The aircraft crashed about a mile south from the airport,” another official added.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has already confirmed the identities of the victims, adding that it has been working to get their bodies back to Israel for burial.
The Greek Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Board launched a probe into the cause of the crash on Tuesday. The board said communication with Geron’s plane was lost shortly before it was expected to land at the Samos airport. Multiple explosions were reportedly heard in the area at the time of the crash.
“A local fisherman said there was a big explosion, followed by a smaller one,” chief of the board, Ioannis Kondylis, told AFP.
While Greek media reported that the aircraft appeared to have suffered a technical malfunction, there’s no official word on what caused the incident yet.
Geron was among over 300 prosecution witnesses listed for the corruption trial of Israel’s former PM Benjamin Netanyahu. He is simultaneously facing three corruption cases known as Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000.
The latter case is the most serious one for Netanyahu, who is alleged to have abused his powers between 2014 and 2017, when he served both as the country’s PM and communications minister. Indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of public trust over allegations of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen and conspiring with media bosses for favorable coverage, Netanyahu has consistently denied all the accusations against him.