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Eight Feared Dead In Helicopter Crash In Russian Far East

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An Mi-8 helicopter (file photo)

A helicopter carrying 16 tourists and crew members in Russia's Far East has crashed into a deep volcanic crater lake, leaving eight people feared dead and two others in serious condition, local officials say.

The Mi-8 helicopter crash-landed into Kuril Lake in the Kamchatka Peninsula and sank, Governor Vladimir Solodov said.

Staff of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve found half of the people on board, he said, adding that two of the survivors were now in intensive care with various injuries.

Dozens of rescue workers in boats and divers were searching for the remaining eight people who were on board, including one child and a crew member, according to the authorities.

The aircraft was believed to be lying at a depth of 130 meters, Solodov said.

"Military officials have confirmed that they had sent specialized robotic devices to assist to find the aircraft and the missing ones," the governor said.

According to officials of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, the water temperature in the lake is 5-6 degrees Celsius.

Earlier reports said that nine people survived the crash, whose cause was not immediately known.

The helicopter, manufactured in 1984, was operated by a local private carrier, Vityaz-Aero, which is co-owned by Igor Redkin, a millionaire businessman who is also a regional lawmaker.

Redkin was placed under house arrest for two months earlier this week after he shot and killed a man at a rubbish dump in a village in Kamchatka he says he mistook for a brown bear.

The Kamchatka Peninsula is more than 6,000 kilometers east of Moscow and is popular among tourists for its scenery and nature.

The helicopter crash comes just over a month after a Russian plane crashed on Kamchatka, killing 28 people on board. Officials blamed that crash on pilot error.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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