MOSCOW (AP) — The bodies of all eight victims of a tourism helicopter crash in Russia’s far-east region of Kamchatka have been found, local officials said Monday. Five were recovered and three remain in the wreckage of the helicopter, which sank into a deep volcanic crater lake.
The Mi-8 helicopter with 16 people on board crashed Thursday into Kurile Lake on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Eight people managed to escape the sinking aircraft and were rescued by rangers from the Kronotsky nature reserve, who rushed to the crash site on boats.
Kamchatka governor Vladimir Solodov said Monday that the wreckage of the helicopter, with some bodies in it, lies at a depth of 120 meters (394 feet), and authorities are working on lifting it out of the lake.
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 any more passengers pending an investigation into a possible violation of flight safety rules. The company is the biggest of several local aviation groups that fly tourists to the Kronotsky reserve, a top tourist attraction which houses Russia’s only geyser basin.
Solodov said Monday that, due to the wreckage recovery operation, access to Kurile Lake will be restricted for tourists for at least a week.