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    Mi-8 crash in Liberia caused by gunfire - company

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    An Mi-8 Hip helicopter that crashed Friday in Liberia, killing the three Russian pilots on board, was shot down, a spokesman for a Russian air carrier said Tuesday.

    TYUMEN, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - An Mi-8 Hip helicopter that crashed Friday in Liberia, killing the three Russian pilots on board, was shot down, a spokesman for a Russian air carrier said Tuesday.

    The UTAir helicopter chartered by the UN for peacekeeping missions in Liberia crashed November 2, while on a routine flight from Ganta bordering Guinea to Loguatuo on the border with the Ivory Coast, killing all three crew members, the Siberia-based company said earlier.

    "One of the main causes of the crash is suspected to be gunfire from the ground because a preliminary investigation discovered multiple bullet holes in the fuselage," the spokesman said.

    No peacekeepers were on board the MI-8MTB aircraft, which was on a UN mission carrying food supplies.

    "According to witness accounts, a tail rotor was ripped off from the fuselage and the helicopter crashed into trees catching fire," the UTAir official said.

    Meanwhile, the UN mission grounded its small fleet of MI-8 helicopters in Liberia "until further notice" while Liberian and UN officials investigate the crash, the UN said in a statement.

    UTAir is a leading provider of helicopter services for peacekeeping operations led by the United Nations and the African Union. It currently maintains a 43-helicopter contingent in Africa, including four Mi-26 Halo, nine Mi-8T and 30 Mi-8MTB aircraft.

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