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Deep flight

Eight survivors swam, and for seven tourists and one crew member, a helicopter flight to a volcanic lake in Kamchatka ended at its bottom - at a depth of 110 meters.

Travelers flew to admire the beauty of Kamchatka, but the plane crash crossed their lives - eight for "before and after", eight forever. An Mi-8 with tourists on board crashed into Lake Kuril - one of the most unique places in Russia, located in a specially protected natural area of ​​Kamchatka. He did not reach the landing site in a matter of meters

Deep flight
Photo: Kronotsky Reserve

The Mi-8 helicopter, owned by the Vityaz-Aero company, took off from the airfield in the village of Nikolaevka (a settlement in the Elizovsky region of the Kamchatka Territory) at about 8:30 am on August 12 and headed for the famous Kuril Lake in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve. The crew was well aware of the route. In the summer season, several rotary-wing machines run along it with guests and residents of the peninsula. People fly to see bears in their natural habitat. Everything was as usual this time too. Onboard there were 13 tourists and three crew members. The main player in the GXNUMX was Nikolai Mikhailovich Sorokin. Yakov Nikolayevich Medvedev was in the co-pilot's seat. The vehicle's flight mechanic is Marat Samatovich Madiev.

The flight took place in normal mode, but there was a thick fog over the lake, a few minutes before landing, the helicopter hit the water and began to rapidly go to depth. It all happened in seconds.

Immediately after the helicopter crashed, the inspectors of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve rushed to help
Photo: Kronotsky Reserve

The employees of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve were the first to rush to the rescue. Many heard the sound of an approaching helicopter, followed by an uncharacteristic cotton landing.

“At 9.25 am there was fog on the lake, the visibility did not exceed 100 meters. We heard the noise of the helicopter, but did not see it. Judging by the sound, he flew over the lake and began to turn towards the cordon. Then there was a loud bang - the helicopter hit the water. We immediately launched 2 boats and in 3-4 minutes reached the crash site, which we identified by the wave. There were 8 people on the surface of the water, who were immediately lifted aboard and taken to the cordon. Two were seriously injured. We began to provide first aid to the victims, to warm them up. We drove around the lake several times in search of other people, but found no one, ”said Yevgeny Denges, a district state inspector of the Kronotsky State Nature Reserve.

Among the eight rescued was Viktor Strelkin. He flew to Kamchatka on August 10 from St. Petersburg, and already on the 12th a helicopter excursion to the Kuril Lake was planned. During the flight, the traveler dozed off. And he was awakened by a blow and a stream of water rushing into the salon.

 “Next to me was my friend's son. He was fastened with seat belts, and I did not have time to pull him out due to the fact that I woke up late. I only managed to unfasten myself, after which I was immediately taken upstairs in the helicopter cockpit. There was a small space with air that I managed to inhale. After that, the helicopter was immediately filled with water. I was sitting in the front row. The door to the cockpit was thrown open, the glass was broken, and through this hole I began to climb up. According to my feelings, since I am freediving, the depth from which I floated to the surface was about 8-9 meters, ”says Victor. 

Viktor Strelkin, survivor of the Mi-8 crash
Photo: Government of the Kamchatka Territory

“The water was very cold, low fog. People were already floundering around, calling for help. I could not save myself further. The sneakers were pulling me to the bottom. I barely managed to take them off. I could not swim on my stomach and understood that I would not last long in such conditions. Fortunately, literally in 5 minutes two boats with people arrived. They pulled me out of the water first. The second one who was saved was the guide Anastasia. Then they got the co-pilot and mechanic. According to other survivors, the co-pilot flew out of the cockpit with the seat. "

The quick reaction of the reserve inspectors saved the lives of those who were in the water. On the shore, the victims were wrapped in blankets, given warm drink and provided the necessary medical assistance. The water temperature in the lake is no more than 5-6 degrees, it is impossible to stay in it for a long time.

Mi-8 crashed near the Heart of Alaid Island, which is located in the Kuril Lake, about 5 kilometers from the coast. As the survivors, who were in the helicopter at the time of the crash, said, he began to sink with his nose down, and the rear doors of the aircraft opened from hitting the water.

Photo: Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory

After some time, help began to come from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Emergencies Ministry rescuers arrived, divers plunged into the water, but no one else was found at the helicopter crash site. All those rescued as a result of the Mi-8 helicopter crash was decided to be sent to the main hospital in Kamchatka.

At 13:15 local time, the special aircraft landed at a special site within Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Several ambulances and the Disaster Medicine Center were already waiting there.

Photo: Government of the Kamchatka Territory

“Four patients were admitted to us on board of the ambulance, two of whom were hospitalized in intensive care. I had to carry out surgery. One of the patients had an open comminuted fracture of the right lower leg, chest contusion, collarbone fracture and traumatic shock of the second or third degree. Hemodynamically, he was extremely unstable, so for 30 minutes preoperative preparation was carried out in the intensive care unit, then surgery was performed for an open fracture. Today he has a consistently serious condition, breathing is independent, the patient is conscious, but under medication sedation. The operated limb is currently viable, there are no signs of inflammation or gangrene yet. The second patient was admitted with an open fracture of the sternum. The wound penetrated into the anterior mediastinum, in addition, he has an open fracture of the wing of the ilium. He is also in intensive care in a consistently critical condition under intensive care. At this hour, his condition has not worsened, it is stabilized, "said Oleg Kuzmenkov, deputy chief physician for surgical care of the Kamchatka Regional Hospital, a surgeon of the highest category, on the morning of Friday 13 August. “A 27-year-old girl-guide received a head injury. She was offered hospitalization, but she refused. The man dealt with bruises, abrasions, that is, outpatient injuries, ”he added.

Among the rescued economist and journalist Nikolai Korzhenevsky, former host of the program "Economics: The Course of the Day" on the channel "Russia 24", director of the laboratory "SberIndex". Nikolai is a fellow of the Oxford Foundation, trained at Stanford. He is called one of the youngest and most respected specialists in exchange trading in Russia.


Sorokin Nikolay - aircraft commander
Medvedev Yakov - navigator
Madiev Marat - mechanic

Ponomareva Anastasia
Strelkin Victor
Malyakov Mikhail
Kovantsev Georgy
Korzhenevsky Nikolay
Antipina Elena
Kulakov Evgeny
Olga Kremneva
Malyakov Daniel
Mozoleva Irina
Kirill Skvarnikov
Chernova Elvira
Kharitonova Elena

A criminal case was opened on the fact of the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter into the Kuril Lake. As told in the Eastern Directorate of Transport of the TFR, a violation of the safety rules for the operation of air transport is being investigated.

Three standard versions are considered as reasons for the crash: unfavorable weather conditions, piloting error and technical malfunction. In addition to collecting evidence at the site of the emergency, the investigators also worked at the Nikolaevka landing site (Vityaz-Aero airport complex) - they seized samples of the fuel that was used to fill the helicopter. A forensic chemical examination has been appointed for the fuel. Also, forensic medical examinations of the victims were appointed.

Photo: Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory

In addition, the general director of Vityaz-Aero LLC, which is the aircraft operator, was questioned, as well as the technical personnel who carried out the pre-flight preparation of the aircraft, the documents of the tour operator and the carrier, as well as the technical documentation for the helicopter, including aircraft repair, which was carried out in 2020.

Photo: Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory

The search operation on the Kuril Lake lasted all day on August 12 until sunset and resumed at dawn. The helicopter, which never landed at its destination, lay down at a depth inaccessible to divers so far - more than 145 meters.

“The wreckage of the helicopter is located at a distance of about 800 meters from the coast and at great depths. Divers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations cannot work on it. Therefore, now we have turned to the Ministry of Defense for assistance. The military has confirmed the direction of underwater robotic vehicles that can help in the search for debris and missing. Robots will examine the bottom of the Kuril Lake in the area of ​​the plane crash. Search work continues. Rescuers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, divers are working on the spot, a field camp is deployed. Investigative bodies are currently establishing possible versions and circumstances of the incident, "- said the Governor of the Kamchatka Territory Vladimir Solodov.

Photo: Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory

The car drowned in the lake with tourists belongs to the Vityaz-Aero company. One of its co-owners is Igor Redkin, deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Kamchatka Territory. The day before he was arrested for the murder of a manin the village of Ozernovsky.

The Mi-8 crash on Lake Kuril was the sixth serious incident with helicopters of the Vityaz-Aero airline in Kamchatka.

One of the most serious was the incident in December 2015. Then the company's car made a hard landing in the Sobolevsky area. There were 25 people on board. The helicopter transported the duty shift of Gazprom Dobycha Noyabrsk. One person died and 11 were injured. In the spring of the same year, there was a hard landing in the Bystrinsky region. None of the six people on board the helicopter were injured. Also in April 2017, the Mi-8 Vityaz helicopter made a hard landing near the Mutnovsky volcano. There were 19 people on board. Three passengers were injured. In January last year, the Mi-8 "froze" on the Mutnovsky volcano. Heavy icing prevented the car from lifting air. The group of 18 tourists and the crew were evacuated by another helicopter from the airline. In 2016, the vehicle damaged the landing gear while landing in the Valley of Geysers.

The incident with the Mi-8 is already the second plane crash that occurred in Kamchatka this summer. July 6 on the peninsula crashed An-26 flying from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana (settlement of Kamchatka Territory). The car crashed into a rock during the landing approach. None of the 28 people on board survived.

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