16 feared dead after helicopter crashes in Russia

MOSCOW (AP) — A helicopter carrying 18 people crashed into a lake in northwestern Russia and only two of them were believed to have survived, officials said Sunday. The two passengers, who floated to the surface still strapped into their seats, were rescued by fishermen and hospitalized for treatment of broken legs and other injuries, Rossiya state television reported.

The Mi-8 helicopter broke into three pieces after crashing into the Munozera lake in the northwestern Murmansk region in bad weather Saturday evening, emergency officials said.

The helicopter belonged to the fertilizer producer Apatit, whose top executives were onboard along with regional government officials, according to the parent company, PhosAgro. The company published a list of 13 passengers and five crew members believed to have been on the flight.

Divers recovered seven bodies Sunday and were continuing to search the crash site, state news agencies reported, citing rescue workers on the scene.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation, but was most likely due either to technical failure or the pilot’s inability to handle difficult weather conditions, the spokesman for the federal Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, said in a statement.

PhosAgro general director Andrei Guryev said in a statement that the purpose of the trip was to look at the potential for developing tourism in the Murmansk region and to familiarize officials with the tourism infrastructure owned by Apatit.

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