A helicopter carrying 16 people, most of them tourists, crashed in a lake on the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s Far East on Thursday and eight people were feared dead.
Staff at a nature reserve described arriving at the site in two speedboats minutes of the crash to find eight survivors in the lake’s waters who had swum up from a depth of eight or nine meters (24-27 feet).
They said two of the survivors were badly hurt and that the temperature of the water was no more than 5-6 degrees Celsius (41-43 Fahrenheit) and that they would not have survived long.
The passengers were able to escape the sinking vessel through the luggage doors that opened at the rear of the helicopter, the regional governor said on state television.
The eight other people on board were missing.
“The bodies of the dead are most likely at the bottom of Kurilskoe lake,” Interfax news agency quoted a health source as saying.
Divers were shown on state television at the lake in heavy fog. They were unable to dive down to the wreckage of the helicopter because it was too deep, Kamchatka’s governor said.
Kamchatka peninsula is popular among tourists for its skiing, hiking, surfing, and volcanoes. It is more than 6,000 km (3,700 miles) east of Moscow and about 2,000 km west of Alaska.
The helicopter was operated by Vityaz-Aero company and had 13 passengers and three crew members, the local emergency service said.
Russian aviation safety standards have improved in recent years but accidents, especially involving ageing planes and helicopters, are not uncommon.