A military remote-controlled submarine brought to the site near Barentsburg where a Russian helicopter carrying eight people may have crashed Thursday may need days to fully search the seabed to determine if the aircraft is there, according to officials.
“The area is relatively large and no good observations of wreckage have been made known to me,” Frode Urke, commanding officer of the Norwegian Coast Guard’s Barentshav, told TV2 late Saturday morning. “It is very difficult to say so early in the phase.”
The Hugin submarine was loaded aboard the Barentshav and departed Longyearbyen at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning. TV2, citing Urke, noted the search area is several square kilometers, stormy weather is expected this weekend and “it should always be assumed that it may take a few days before they know more.”
The search is being coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of Northern Norway, which is still classifying the effort as a search-and-rescue mission despite officials admitting the chances of finding survivors are low. So far only a few scattered oil spills and some air bubbles from the primary area of focus have been located.
The helicopter, carrying three Russian researchers and five Russian crew members on a flight from Pyramiden, disappeared from radar about two to three kilometers from Barentsburg without sending a distress signal at about 3:45 p.m. Witnesses said they observed lights from the helicopter as it approached the Russian settlement and an SAS airplane reported seeing a glowing light at the apparent crash site.
A smaller remote-controlled submarine brought to the site Friday searched the area without success.