The Mi-8 helicopter sank in
The rescue operation searching for the missing people continued until Thursday evening and was suspended until the morning when it became dark.
Rangers in the nature reserve reported hearing the helicopter approaching the lake and then the sound of it hitting the surface and said they immediately dispatched two boats to the crash site.
“The water was really cold. The fog was low,” one of the survivors, Viktor Strelkin, said in a video interview released by the government of Kamchatka. He said the rescue boats arrived just in time after he swam up to the lake surface.
“I couldn't save myself further. My sneakers were dragging me down, I barely managed to take them off," Strelkin said. "I couldn't swim on the stomach and realized that in these conditions I wouldn't be able to hang in much longer. Luckily, within five minutes, two boats with people arrived.”
Russian news reports did not list the nationalities of the tourists aboard the helicopter, but said that most of them were from
Regional prosecutors were investigating a possible violation of flight safety rules.
The helicopter, manufactured during the Soviet era 37 years ago, was operated by Vityaz-Aero, a local private carrier. Its director said it had recently undergone maintenance and was in good shape.
The Mi-8 is a two-engine helicopter designed in the 1960s. It has been used widely in
The area where the crash occurred can only be reached by helicopters, and fog complicated rescue efforts, RIA Novosti reported. A total of 15 rescuers, including six divers, were involved in the rescue operation, according to Interfax.
Kamchatka, the pristine peninsula which is home to numerous volcanoes is known for its rugged beauty and rich wildlife. The Kronotsky reserve, which has Russia’s only geyser basin, is a major tourist attraction on Kamchatka and helicopters regularly carry tourists there.
Quickly changing weather often makes flights risky. Last month, an An-26 passenger plane crashed on Kamchatka while approaching an airport in bad weather, killing all 28 people on board.
Russian news reports said Vityaz-Aero is half-owned by
There are an estimated 20,000 bears on Kamchatka, and they occasionally roam into settlements looking for food.