BARENTSBURG CRASH UPDATE: Body of helicopter largely intact on seabed, divers say; aircraft scheduled to be raised Thursday


A Russian helicopter that crashed into the sea near Barentsburg last week with eight people aboard appears to be largely intact as a vessel from the mainland is scheduled to arrive Thursday to raise it from the seabed, according to officials.

The body of one person aboard the helicopter was discovered about 130 meters from the crash site and brought to the surface Tuesday, and several teams of divers and surface searchers are looking for the remaining occupants who are presumed dead. But while officials said it’s possible the bodies may be some distance from the wreckage – possible carried there by currents in the days since last Thursday’s crash, the fuselage of the Mi-8 helicopter found 292 meters beneath the surface Monday is “practically unaffected.”

“It was revealed that the helicopter’s hull is not seriously damaged, the machine is lying on the propeller,” Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations announced in a statement Wednesday.

The body discovered near the wreckage was brought to the surface Tuesday morning and sent to Tromsø, where it will be identified before being sent home to relatives in Russia.

“Two vessels, remote-controlled unmanned underwater vehicles and special lifting devices equipped with dynamic stabilization systems were brought to do the work,” Eugene Saidov, head the Russian emergency group, said in a statement He noted the severe Arctic conditions required additional measures for the preparation of additional equipment.

Aboard the helicopter during the crash were three researchers from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, plus five crew members working for a subcontractor Trust Arktikugol, the Russian state-owned company responsible for the management of Barentsburg. The helicopter crashed last Thursday afternoon about two kilometers northeast of the heliport in the Russian settlement.


The Maersk Forza is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the site where a helicopter crashed near Barentsburg to raise the aircraft from the seabed. Photo courtesy of Maersk.

Seventeen divers were among more than 40 Russian search-and-rescue workers who arrived Monday to help The Governor of Svalbard, which is in charge of the recovery effort. The divers, using a remote-controlled submarine to assist with the inspection, conducted several dives Tuesday to examine the aircraft.

Searchers have also examines more than 60 kilometers of shoreline as of Wednesday morning, according to the ministry.

The Norwegian ship Maersk Forza is scheduled to arrived at the scene Thursday to raise the aircraft, according to a statement by the governor’s office.