Report: Russian helicopter crew didn’t report problems before crash, passengers likely evacuated aircraft before it sank


The crew of a Russian helicopter that crashed near Barentsburg aren’t heard discussing any problems beforehand on the cockpit’s voice recorder, but the eight occupants aboard who perished apparently escaped the aircraft without lifejackets before it sank, according to preliminary report released Friday by The Accident Investigation Board Norway.

The helicopter crashed about two kilometers northeast of the Barentsburg heliport while carrying five Russian crew members and three Russian researchers from Pyramiden. The wreckage was found three days later on the seabed about 209 meters beneath the surface and one passenger discovered a day later about 130 meters away. Russian and Norwegian rescuers continued to search the sea and coastlines for the remaining occupants until Nov. 8 without success.

The helicopter’s voice recorder and GPS tracker were recovered, but the flight data recorder in the heavily damaged tail was missing its data chip.

“Preliminary analysis of the cockpit voice recorder indicates that the crew apparently did not identify any technical abnormalities before the helicopter impacted the sea,” the report states. “This is to be further investigated before any conclusions are drawn. Damage to the helicopter indicates that it struck the water relatively flat with the tail low. It is reason to believe that all persons on board evacuated the helicopter before it sunk.”

The Mi-8 helicopter was not equipped with a lifeboat or floatation devices to keep the aircraft from sinking, but there were life jackets under the seats for all of the passengers.

“The life jackets were not used, and all but one has been accounted for under the seats in the helicopter,” the report states. “The remaining life jacket has been found on the seabed. Survival suits were not in use.”

The report contains no conclusions or safety recommendations due to its preliminary nature. Investigators now plan to supplement the data collected from the examination of the helicopter, the voice recorder and GPS tracker with additional information including interviews, weather, the guidelines used by the company that owned the helicopter and operational procedures.