MOSCOW (AP) — Rescuers on Saturday recovered the bodies of three out of the eight people missing after a helicopter carrying tourists plunged into a deep volcanic crater lake in Russia’s Far East.
The Mi-8 helicopter with 16 people on board crashed into Kurile Lake on the Kamchatka Peninsula while trying to land on the lake bank in deep fog. Eight people managed to escape the quickly sinking aircraft, and rangers for the Kronotsky natural reserve rescued them from the frigid water after rushing to crash site in boats.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said its workers lifted the bodies of three of the victims, including the helicopter’s pilot, from the bottom of the lake, where the crashed helicopter lay at a depth of 120 meters (394 feet).
Kamchatka Gov. Vladimir Solodov said high winds later Saturday forced the search team to suspend its work. The emergency workers plan to use underwater robots Sunday to recover the bodies of other victims from inside the submerged helicopter.
Two of the eight survivors were badly injured in the crash and were taken to the intensive care unit at a local hospital.
Kamchatka, a pristine peninsula with numerous volcanoes, is known for its rugged beauty and rich wildlife. Kurile Lake is up to 316 meters (1,037 feet) deep and covers an area of 77 square kilometers (30 square miles).
Authorities have banned Vityaz-Aero, a local carrier that operated the crashed helicopter, from transporting passengers pending an investigation into a possible violation of flight safety rules. The company is the biggest of several local carriers which fly tourists to the Kronotsky reserve, a top tourist attraction that houses Russia’s only geyser basin.
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