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KHABAROVSK, August 16. /TASS/. A Mil Mi-8 helicopter, which crashed in the Sea of Okhotsk on Saturday, sank 70m off shore in the Tugursky Peninsula. The survived say they can see its fuselage, representative of the local branch of Russia’s emergencies ministry said referring to communication with survived passengers.
"The latest information is eleven people have survived - three crew members and eight passengers, and the other five are still missing," the authority’s press service said. "The survived say they can see the helicopter’s fuselage about 70m off the shore at the depth of about nine metres."
On Saturday, reports said a Mil Mi-8 helicopter of the Vostok Aviation Company was making a flight between two settlements in the Far East’s Khabarovsk territory. It had on board three members of the crew and 13 passengers.
The helicopter was due to arrive in the final destination by 10:20 Moscow time, but the crew did not communicate in due course. Later reports said the helicopter crashed in the Onchagan Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk near the Shantar Islands. "Later on, the captain managed to communicate with the company and reported the helicopter crashed three kilometres to the destination and sunk," Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsia said.
The latest reports say five people died in the helicopter crash. "The crew communicated the company once again, saying five people have died in the crash, and the rest have survived and do not require medical assistance," Rosaviatsia said.
Media reports said earlier in the day that top managers of the VTB Leasing, a top-20 leasing company in Europe, were on board the crashed helicopter. The group of tourists was led by a well-known local traveller, researcher of the Shantar Islands, Igor Olkhovsky. VTB’s press service said that Andrei Konoplev, the company’s director general, and his deputies have survived the crash.
A total of 126 people and 24 units of equipment are taking part in the search and rescue operation, including six aircraft and three vessels.
The Shantar Islands are a group of fifteen islands located off the western shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. The archipelago amazes travellers by its unique wild nature. A tour to the islands in a group of ten people for 12 days costs about $9,000 per person.
The Vostok Aviation Company is registered in Khabarovsk. It is a big company with a low index of financial risks. The fleet has Antonov An-28 and An-38 aircraft, Mil Mi-8 and AS350 helicopters. The company makes regular flights to northern and distanced regions in the Khabarovsk territory.