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​Top regional officials possibly dead in Russian helicopter crash

​Top regional officials possibly dead in Russian helicopter crash
Rescuers are searching the crash site of a transport helicopter, which crashed in the Russia’s North West. Senior regional officials might have died in the incident.

The Mil Mi-8 helicopter crashed into a lake in the Murmansk region sometime after losing radio contact with air traffic controllers on Saturday evening.

Two people survived the crash and have been taken to hospital after local fishermen on the lakeshore found them.

Divers have recovered the bodies of nine others from the lake, five of whom have already been identified.

The fate of the rest of the victims remains unknown, though there are fears that they have all drowned.

“The rescuers still have to find the bodies of the seven deceased,” a source in the Murmansk region’s administration told ITAR-TASS news agency.

According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, there were 18 people on board when the helicopter crashed.

Following the tragedy, Monday has been declared a day of mourning in the Murmansk region.

Police say senior Murmansk region officials, including a deputy governor and a deputy minister, may have been on board the helicopter, as well as the CEO of Apatit, a phosphate refining giant based in the region, and some other senior company officials.

Some 100 people and 20 specialized vehicles are taking part in the search and rescue operation.

Investigators believe that the crash was caused by either a technical failure or a piloting error in bad weather conditions, Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee said.

A crime scene investigation team has been deployed to collect evidence at the crash site, he added.