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12 Aug, 2021 02:41

8 missing after helicopter carrying tourists crashes into lake in Russia’s Far East

Eight people are believed to have been killed after a Mi-8 helicopter crash-landed into a lake in the national reserve on the south of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East. A total of 16 people were aboard the aircraft.

The helicopter, operated by Vityaz-Aero, was carrying 13 tourists, including a child, and three crew members as it fell into Kuril Lake early Thursday. 

Eight people died in the crash, health officials told Interfax news agency, adding that the bodies are likely to be found at the bottom of the lake. The helicopter pilot is reportedly among those presumed killed. Another eight people were rescued, with their condition estimated as non-life-threatening, the source said. The injured victims are being transported to various hospitals.

The helicopter’s debris reportedly sank almost immediately after the crash. Six passengers and two crew members were able to get out of the wreckage just in time to reach the surface and were pulled out of the cold water by national reserve workers.

Kuril Lake spans an area of 76 square kilometers (29 miles) and is a popular tourist hotspot, especially during summer holidays. Its maximum depth is 316 meters (1,037 ft).

In wake of the tragedy, all helicopter tours to the lake have been suspended so rescuers can comb through the site. More than 60 people, including divers, and 10 equipment units are involved in the rescue effort.

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The operation, however, hit a stumbling block after it was confirmed that the crash site is located at a point where the depth of the lake is over 100 meters (330 ft.), the regional emergency service told the media. It significantly exceeds the capabilities of the diving equipment that the rescue team has immediately available.

A criminal inquiry has been launched into the incident. The helicopter was reportedly deemed airworthy after a pre-flight check, but it is believed that haze might have played a role in the crash.

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