Fourteen dead as passenger helicopter crashes off Estonia

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baltic Sea

Fourteen people are presumed dead after a passenger helicopter of the Finnish company Copterline crashed into the Baltic Sea, 5 km off the coast of Estonia.

After hours of search, the wreck was found with a sonar at a depth of approximately 60 meters. The cabin is damaged but has remained in one piece, and passengers were found dead inside the cabin. Lifting of the wreckage is being planned at the moment.

The Sikorsky S-76 was on a scheduled passenger flight to Helsinki from Tallinn, the Estonian capital. The craft came down just three minutes after take-off at 12:43 pm (GMT+3). According to an eyewitness, two loud bangs were heard before the craft crashed down. No smoke or fire were seen after the bangs.

On board were six Finnish, four Estonian and two American passengers as well as two Finnish crew members. Both of the pilots were experienced, with over 10 years of flight experience in the company.

Estonian rescue helicopters and boats have been sent, a Finnish rescue helicopter and mini submarines also at the scene.

Investigation of the causes of the accident is underway, but one possible reason is the bad weather as the area has been suffering from severe storms recently, the winds at the time are believed to have been 17-20 metres a second. "Many of the helicopters safety measures failed", said the spokesman from Copterline. The safety measures include the ability of the craft to glide down in case of engine failure and the ability to float on water, both of which seemed to have failed. Copterline, one of the largest helicopter airlines in Europe, has cancelled all upcoming flights today, but are continuing as scheduled tomorrow morning.

An overview in Estonian (some pics & timeline)