Approx 18 passengers on board were killed when a Russian helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff in Siberia on Saturday.
The Russian Transport Ministry said the Mi-8 helicopter carrying three crew members and 15 passengers crashed when it collided with machinery carried by another helicopter soon after take-off.
Preliminary information indicated that the aircraft’s blades collided with another helicopter that had taken off beforehand from the same pad in Vankor, above the Arctic Circle about 2,600 kilometers (1600 miles) northeast of Moscow, UTair said in a statement.
It added that the second helicopter landed safely and that the accident took place in “normal” weather conditions.
The helicopter was operated by Russian national airline Utair, which has its head office in Khanty Mansiysk airport in western Siberia.
The helicopter that crashed was manufactured in 2010 and the pilot had nearly 6,000 hours of experience, including 2,300 as a captain, the UTair statement said.
The airline said it sent its specialists to the site of the crash.
Russia’s transport ministry said it created a commission to investigate the crash and that the vice director of the Federal Air Transport Agency was on his way to the site.
The country’s Investigative Committee said it opened a criminal investigation into the crash.
Accidents involving helicopters and small planes are frequent in Siberia and far eastern Russia, where air transport is commonly used to cover vast distances.
Earlier in April, a Mi-8 helicopter crashed in far eastern Russia, killing six people.
In November 2017, six people died when a small plane crash-landed in the Khabarovsk region.
In 2016, 19 people died when a Mi-8 helicopter carrying oil and gas field workers crashed in a remote area of Siberia.>