UNIETD NATIONS, March 11 (Itar-Tass) – The United Nations maintains constant contact with Russia over the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter with a Russian crew in the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky told a news conference in New York.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported earlier in the day that a rescue team has arrived several kilometres from the area where one of its helicopters went missing this weekend, but have not yet reached the wreckage site owing to bad weather conditions and difficult terrain.
The helicopter, with four crew members on board, went missing on Saturday between Bukavu and Shabunda in the eastern province of South Kivu, according to the U.N. Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DRC (MONUSCO).
“The helicopter’s wreckage has been located and a rescue team has arrived a few kilometres away from it,” Nesirky said.
“However, due to bad weather restrictions and the difficult terrain, the team has not yet been able to reach the crash site,” he added.
MONUSCO is tasked with supporting the Congolese authorities in their stabilization and peace consolidation efforts, including assisting with the holding of elections, the monitoring of human rights violations and support for Government action against armed groups operating in the east of the country.
The Mi-8 helicopter owned by UTair on a U.N. charter flight to Shabunda-Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo crashed on March 9 due to extreme weather conditions over mountain terrain. The crew, consisting of four UTair employees, is still missing, the company said.
The helicopter was last in radio contact with ground personnel Bukavu Airport at 10.17 a.m. at a distance of 10 miles from the airport to request permission to land. The UTair helicopter failed to arrive at the airport at the requested time.
The crash site was located on the following day, March 10, in a very remote area in the mountain jungle at an elevation of 8,100 feet (2,700 metres). A search and rescue operation has been launched to locate possible survivors. The helicopter carried no passengers or cargo on board, UTair said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the fate of the crew – Vladimir Safronov, Alexander Sarafanov, Alexander Bessmertny, and Yevgeny Nikitin – remains unknown. Some experts think that they had no chance of survival.