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Emergency beyond crew control seen as possible cause of Kaliningrad helicopter crash

Criminal case has been launched into violation of flight safety rules

MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Investigators are looking into two main versions of the helicopter crash in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad: violation of safety rules and an emergency situation that was beyond the crew’s control.

A Ka-52 helicopter took off from the Khrabrovo airport to perform a scheduled training flight. It was flying at low altitudes above the Curonian Lagoon, some 5 km away from the city of Polessk, when communication with the crew was lost. The helicopter had three people on board: two pilots, who survived, and a flight engineer, who died.

"The versions that are currently being considered are safety rules violations and, possibly, some kind of emergency that was beyond the control of the aircraft’s crew. Here are the two main versions at the moment," the press service of the North-Western transport investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee said.

The Investigative Committee department also said that a criminal case had been launched into violation of flight safety rules. At the moment, investigators are examining the crash site. They are yet to decide whether the aircraft’s wreckage should be lifted from the seabed and taken to the shore.

According to an emergencies source, the helicopter "is lying on its side at a shallow depth, not far from the shore." "Some parts of its hull are seen above the water surface," the source continued. "The aircraft has obviously been damaged, but looks unbroken at first glance. A decision is now being made on whether it should be lifted."

According to the regional department of the Russian emergencies ministry, the helicopter was in proper technical condition when it went on a scheduled training flight on Thursday evening.

"Just like every aircraft, it underwent scheduled maintenance and pre-flight procedures. Therefore, the helicopter was fully operational," the department said.

Earlier, a law enforcement source told TASS that no technical problems had been identified before the flight.

Meanwhile, the Russian emergencies ministry’s press service told TASS the helicopter was flown by "an experienced crew with thousands of flight hours."

"During their work at the Russian emergencies ministry, they frequently took part in search and rescue missions in forests and at sea, in extinguishing wildfires and man-made fires," the press service said.

According to a law enforcement source, the two survivors were taken to a hospital in Kaliningrad, with injuries that are not life-threatening.

"According to preliminary information, they were both hospitalized," the source said. "So far, they have not been diagnosed with any serious injury, suffering only from concussion and hypothermia."

The ill-fated Ka-32 was the only helicopter of the Russian emergencies ministry in the Kaliningrad region, used primarily for extinguishing fires. This type of helicopters is equipped with vertical and horizontal fire extinguishing systems. They can also be used for evacuating the injured and delivering personnel and cargo.