Divers are assisting Russian emergency services to locate survivors after a Mil Mi-8 helicopter operating a tourism service crashed and sank in Kuril crater lake, in the southern Kamchatka peninsula.

Sixteen occupants, including 13 passengers and three crew members, were on board the aircraft which was flying from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on 12 August. At least eight have been rescued.

Vityaz-Aero, which has an associated tourism firm, was operating the Mi-8.

Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee, which is setting up an investigation commission, identifies the helicopter involved as RA-24744, originally delivered to the government of the Soviet Union in 1984.

The Kamchatka governor’s office states that the helicopter made a “hard landing” on the lake, adding that state border guard divers are helping the emergency services ministry with the response.

Governor Vladimir Solodov says the accident occurred in the morning and there was “poor visibility” in the Kuril lake area.

vityaz aero helicopter-c-vityaz-aero

Source: Vityaz-Aero

Vityaz-Aero was operating the Mi-8 involved in the accident

Personnel of the Kronotsky nature reserve helped to rescue survivors using boats to reach the crash site, he adds.

Two of those rescued are in serious condition. District hospitals have been prepared for the admission of casualties, according to Kamchatka’s acting health minister Marina Volkova.

At least six divers are assisting the rescue teams. The emergency services ministry says the helicopter was operating a commercial service from Nilolaevka to Kuril lake and the Khodutka volcano.

Kuril lake search-c-Kamchatka governor office

Source: Kamchatka government

Rescue vessels searching the lake after the crash

One of those who survived the accident has told the governor’s office that he was sleeping, and awoken by the impact, managing to escape through the helicopter’s cockpit as the aircraft filled with water, and swam to the surface.

He says the water was “very cold” with a low fog, stating that two boats arrived within about 5min of the crash and adding that members of the flight crew were among those rescued.