A remote-controlled submarine sent to Svalbard by the Norwegian military has located the wreckage of a Russian helicopter that crashed into the sea off Barentsburg in the Arctic island group last week. All eight on board the helicopter are presumed dead.
Around 40 Russian search and rescue experts including 17 divers arrived in Barentsburg on Svalbard’s island of Spitsbergen during the weekend to assist in the recovery of the helicopter that disappeared on Thursday and was believed to have crashed. The mini-sub Hugin located the wreckage at a depth of 209 meters Sunday morning and was able to send images to those operating it.
Efforts are due to be made on Wednesday to raise the wreckage and hopefully recover the bodies of the eight Russians on board. In addition to the crew of the large helicopter owned by Russian mining company Arktikugol, the other passengers were Russian researchers specializing in Arctic issues. The helicopter was returning to Barentsburg from a trip to the former Russian mining settlement of Pyramiden when it crashed.
Accident investigators are hoping to retrieve voice recorders that could help them determine the cause of the crash, along with the wreckage itself. Svalbard’s top legal official, Sysselmann Kjerstin Askholt, said her office was in the process of chartering a specially designed ship that can raise the helicopter. It was expected to arrive Wednesday evening, and get to work right away.
“Together with the Russian search and rescue crews we will chart the area around the helicopter to aid in its recovery,” Askholt stated in a press release Sunday evening. She is now officially in charge of the response to the Russian crash, after taking over for Norway’s search and rescue authority HRS (Hovedredningssentralen) on the mainland, but said the Norwegians and Russians were cooperating well.
“This is a tragic accident,” Askholt said earlier in the weekend. “We have great sympathy for those who are affected by the accident.”
HRS has identified those on board the helicopter as Oleg Golovanov, Nikolaj Fadejev and Maksim Kaulio of the Russian research institute for the Arctic and Antarctic, and the helicopter’s crew of five: Pilot Jevgenij Varanov, co-pilot Vladimir Frolov, flight mechanic Aleksej Pouljauskas, technician Marat Mikhtarov and engineer Aleksej Koroljov.