Tourists, along with crew members, aboard the Mi-8 helicopter were on a sight-seeing trip as it went down in Kurile Lake in the mountainous Kamchatka Peninsula, which was formed in a volcano caldera and crater and is located in the Kronotsky nature reserve.
Staff at the nature reserve managed to save half of the passengers as they rushed to the crash site, dispatching speedboats just minutes after the crash. Two survivors required treatment in the intensive care unit and were badly hurt as the ice-cold water of the lake was no more than 41–43 Fahrenheit (5–6 degrees Celsius).
“They approached the scene in a boat and saved eight people,” Kamchatka Gov. Vladimir Solodov confirmed in a statement, according to AFP.
The survivors had to swim about 29.5 feet (9 meters) up to the surface from the sinking helicopter, a spokesperson for the nature reserve said.
Eight of the passengers are still unaccounted for and officials are fearing the worst as the wreckage of the helicopter sank to a depth of more than 420 feet (130 meters), according to Russia’s Emergency Ministry.
More than 60 rescuers and divers were dispatched to the crash site but at the time they did not have the necessary equipment to begin the rescue operation.
“The divers of the emergencies ministry cannot work at such depth. So we turned to the defense ministry for help,” Solodov said. “Robots will be studying the bottom of Kuril Lake at the site of the crash.”
Local services noted that the Soviet-era helicopter was operated by the Vityaz-Aero company, a local private carrier, and had 13 passengers and three crew members on board.
The Mi-8 is a two-engine helicopter that was designed in the 1960s and widely manufactured during the Soviet era 37 years ago. It has been used in Russia, ex-Soviet countries, and many other nations.
Kamchatka’s peninsula, which is home to numerous volcanoes and is known for its rugged beauty and rich wildlife, is a major tourist destination and helicopters regularly carry tourists there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From NTD News