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Murmansk authorities to help families of passengers and crew of Russian helicopter crash off Spitsbergen
© RIA Novosti. Aleksandr Kryazhev

Murmansk authorities to help families of passengers and crew of Russian helicopter crash off Spitsbergen

A Convers Avia Mi-8 helicopter crashed on October 25 during a flight from an abandoned Russian settlement known as Pyramiden to Barentsburg. Arctic.ru has collected all known information about the search for the helicopter. This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

TASS reports that at 3:35 pm local time (4:35 pm Moscow time) the rescue service received a message that a helicopter with five crew members and three employees of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute was lost, which was confirmed by the Spitsbergen governor 10  minutes later. The northwestern transportation division of the Russian Investigation Committee has initiated a criminal case on safety rules violation.

According to the Russian Ministry of Energy, the names of the passengers (employees of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute) are as follows: Oleg Golovanov, Nikolai Fadeyev and Maxim Kaulio. The crew consisted of first pilot Yevgeny Baranov, co-pilot Vladimir Frolov, flight engineer Alexei Poulyauskas, technician Marat Mikhtarov and engineer Alexei Korolyov.

The administration of the Murmansk Region is ready to provide all the necessary help to the families of the passengers and the crew of the helicopter which crashed into the sea off the Spitsbergen (Svalbard) Archipelago, Governor Marina Kovtun told TASS.

"The administration of the Murmansk Region and the Murmansk airport will make every effort to help those who will leave for or from Spitsbergen. If there is any need to use the spare Murmansk airfield, the Murmansk administration as well as all corresponding services, the Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM) and the airport are ready to provide the necessary help and support," said Kovtun, referring to psychological help for the families of the passengers and the crew.

"Our regional EMERCOM crisis management center is constantly in touch with the Joint Rescue Coordination Center of Northern Norway. We also keep in touch with the Barentsburg mine's chief engineer," she added.

The St. Petersburg administration has also promised to help the families of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute's employees who were aboard the helicopter. "Right now we're trying to reach their families to provide them with all the help they need. The situation is not completely clear yet, and the search for the people who were aboard the helicopter is ongoing. However, the city is ready to provide any help," Alexander Rzhanenkov, chairman of the St. Petersburg Social Policy Committee, told TASS.

RIA Novosti reports that the AIBN (Accident Investigation Board Norway) has begun an investigation of the crash. "The investigation is being carried out by the AIBN. The Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) has established a special group to take part in it. The group has already started working," the Board's message reads. Norway's air force has sent a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to search for the helicopter.

Arktikugol specialists are examining the coastal line near Spitsbergen where the helicopter crashed, Arktikugol CTO Sergei Tsikolenko told TASS.

"Arktikugol has no submarine or marine tools for the search; the Norwegian rescue service is doing that. Arktikugol employees are examining the coastal line," Tsikolenko said. According to him, the helicopter belonged to Arktikugol Trust, but was used by Convers Avia Airline, which was responsible for its upkeep, preflight maintenance and flights.