YAKUTSK/MOSCOW, July 2 (RIA Novosti) – At least 19 people, including children, were killed when a helicopter crashed in northeastern Russia on Tuesday, officials said.
The Mil Mi-8 helicopter carrying 25 passengers and three crew members was on a routine passenger flight in the Siberian republic of Yakutia when it lost contact with air controllers, said the Interstate Aviation Committee, an aviation oversight body.
It said 19 were killed in the crash.
Regional emergencies official Anatoly Skrebykin said, however, that only the crew and two passengers survived, adding that “information about the rest [of the passengers] is being clarified.” He said there were 14 adults and 11 children, including three infants under the age of two, among the passengers.
The Emergencies Ministry said it could not confirm the reports of the death toll, as rescue teams had not yet reached the crash site. Due to bad weather, the search crew was only able to land 15 km from the crash site and is continuing on foot, the ministry said.
The helicopter crashed after encountering severe turbulence and hitting a hill with its tail about 66 km from its departure point in the village of Deputatsky about 8,500 km east of Moscow, Skrebykin said.
The helicopter belonged to the local Polyarnye airlines.
Road construction is complicated in Yakutia due to long winters and permafrost, and Soviet-designed passenger helicopters still remain the only reliable mode of transportation in the sparsely populated republic the size of India.
Updated throughout the day.