BARENTSBURG CRASH UPDATE (11:30 A.M. SATURDAY): Helicopter raised, search for bodies continues


A helicopter that crashed near Barentsburg was raised from the seabed at about 2 a.m. Saturday, according to The Accident Investigation Board Norway. No bodies were found in the aircraft and recovery workers are continuing to search coastlines for the passengers.


A floating crane is used to raise a Russian Mi-8 helicopter onto the deck of the SSS early Saturday morning. Photo courtesy of The Governor of Svalbard.

The largely intact Russian Mi-8 helicopter was raised by the Maersk Forza using a floating crane onto the ship’s deck, along with smaller parts of the aircraft that were recovered, according to a prepared statement. The cockpit voice recorder and GPS were recovered during the initial operation.

“The lifting operation was successful,” said William Bertheussen, the investigation board’s director, told NRK. “The salvage operation is technically very difficult, but we have the best equipment and crew to do the job.”

The data recorder was in the tail of the helicopter, which broke off from the main fuselage, Vyacheslav Nikolayev, the Russian Consul General in Svalbard, told RIA Novosti. It had not been recovered as of early Saturday evening.

The instruments will be sent to Moscow for analysis.

The ship arrived in Svalbard on Wednesday, but Norwegian and Russian recovery workers delayed the raising of the helicopter to conduct further analysis of the crash site and ensure no bodies were in the vicinity. Evgeny Saidov, head of the operations group from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, told Russia’s TASS news agency the lifting of the helicopter started late Friday night.

“The operation was complicated by poor visibility and severe Arctic conditions,” he said.


Recovery workers search the coastline near Barentsburg for the bodies of those aboard a helicopter that crashed near the settlement. Photo courtesy of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

The helicopter crashed Oct. 26 about two kilometers from the Barentsburg heliport, coming to rest upside down 209 meters beneath the surface. All eight passengers are presumed dead, but only one body has been recovered.

In addition to searching the sea with divers and remote-controlled submarines, more than 150 people have surveyed 200 kilometers of coastline, Saidov said. He said the search is continuing Saturday and “the zone of the search operation is being expanded.”