INTERNATIONAL EFFORT: Russia, Denmark join Norway in search for missing helicopter near Barentsburg – and Russia renews call for its own S&R facility

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A Russian plane is scheduled to join the search by Norwegian and other officials Friday afternoon for a missing helicopter with eight people aboard that crashed into the sea near Barentsburg on Thursday. Meanwhile, a leader in Russia is using the incident to push for a greater presence in Svalbard.

Numerous other rescue resources joined Friday’s search being coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of Northern Norway. Among them is a Challenger plane from the Danish Air Force that took part in Thursday’s efforts, an Orion aircraft from the 333 Squadron on Andøya equipped with special scanning equipment and a remote-controlled sub that is searching the seabed where the helicopter may have crashed. In addition, there are numerous private individuals and boats taking part in the search along with Norwegian vessel from the Coast Guard and Svalbard governor’s office.

“This is a tragic accident,” said Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt in a prepared statement Friday afternoon. “It is important for me to emphasize that we have invested considerable resources in the ongoing search. We are doing everything we can to find the missing helicopter and those on board.”

The eight Russian nationals aboard the helicopter included five crew members and three members of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute who were on a return flight from a hydrology project in Pyramiden. The passengers were Golovanov Oleg Fedorovich, 43, Kaulio Maxim Valeryevich, 25, and Fateev Nikolai Nikolayevich, 28. The crew members were flight commander Eugene Baranov Leonidovich, 42, second pilot Frolov Vladimir Nikolayevich, 39, flight mechanic Paulauskas Alexis Alexandrovich, 39, technician Mikhitarov Mark Ernestovich, 32, and engineer Korolev Aleksey Vladimirovich, 62.

Russian media reported Friday that many were laying flowers outside the institute in St. Petersburg in memory of the researchers. Rescue officials said that while the likelihood of finding survivors is diminishing, they are still holding out hope.

Also in Russia on Friday, one government official used the incident to renew his call for Russia to build a search and rescue base in Svalbard.

“The tragic situation once again brings to the front the question about the need for a Russian rescue base in Spitsbergen,” Anatoly Leontiev, an official with the Russian Fishery Agency, told the TASS news agency. “The presence of Russian rescue workers on site is extremely needed. After all, there is a big fleet (of trawlers) working there and then there is Trust Arktikugol.”