According to Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, an IDF officer among the first on the scene said that "all that was left was a big, burned out crater, with very little debris." Ramon's remains were found not far from the crater, according to an eyewitness on Israeli television station Channel 10, there was a parachute among the debris, indicating that Ramon may have tried to eject.
The causes of the accident are unclear, but the initial reports suggest a high probability that the crash was the result of human factors. The Jerusalem Post reported the pilot may have blacked out on a turn, or experienced vertigo. Alternatives include the possibility that the plane had a mechanical failure which Ramon may not have time to report.
On the space shuttle, Ilan Ramon aimed to represent Israel and Jews all over the world, and took a small prayer book - kept by a young boy who survived the Holocaust - with him into space. In a 2003 article in the Jerusalem Post, Ramon is quoted as saying the prayer book symbolized "the ability of the Jewish people to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from the darkest of days with hope and faith in the future."
President Shimon Peres sees the Ramon men as symbols even in their death. "I knew them both, father and son-- Ilan and Assaf-- fighters, scholars, courageous men, dreamers… As a family they are a symbol for all that is great in Jewish history, all that is courageous in the Jewish state," Peres said.