OSLO, October 27. /TASS/. There is next to no chance that any of the eight Russians who were onboard the Mi-8 helicopter that crashed off the island of Spitzbergen on Thursday is alive, a spokesman for the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of Northern Norway told TASS on Friday.
"To be honest, it is most likely that everyone onboard crashed into the ocean with the helicopter. It is not very realistic to hope to find anybody alive. What we hope might have happened is that someone hit the water outside the helicopter and maybe was able to get to the shore. It is still a search and rescue operation, but this is more of a formal thing," the spokesman said.
More than 24 hours have elapsed since the beginning of the rescue operation but so far it has yielded no results. All the rescuers have found are spots of fuel and air bubbles on the water surface several kilometers off the place the helicopter was to land at. According to Norwegian rescuers, several vessels will continue the search operation through the night. In the morning, helicopters will join the operation.
Late on Thursday, a large object was detected on seabed off the Spitsbergen Island by a rescue vessel sonar at the depth of about 200-250 meters. The smell of the spilled fuel in this areas was the strongest and air bubbles are seen rising from the seabed.
Norwegian rescuers say it may indicate that the helicopter or a big fragment of it are lying there. It is planned to use an underwater drone to survey the area.
Russian rescuers are to join the rescue operation soon.
A helicopter of the Conversavia airline, carrying eight people, was en route from the mothballed community of Pyramiden to Barentsburg when contact with the aircraft was lost at 15:04 local time (16:04 Moscow time). There were five crew and three employees of the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute on board the helicopter. It was in a proper technical condition and underwent maintenance before the flight, Conversavia said. All passengers and crew of the helicopter are listed as missing.