Sixteen missing in Russian helicopter crash

MOSCOW Sun Jun 1, 2014 6:30am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Sixteen people, including the head of Apatit, a fertiliser supplier, were missing and two survived with injuries after an Mi-8 helicopter crashed into a lake in Russia's northwest Murmansk region, the Emergencies Ministry said on Sunday.

The state-owned RIA Novosti news agency, citing an unnamed source, said regional government officials and businessmen were aboard the helicopter and that they were on a fishing trip.

A spokesman for PhosAgro, one of the world's largest producer of phosphate fertilisers, told Reuters that Alexei Grigoryev, the head of its Apatit subsidiary, was on board the helicopter. He declined to elaborate.

The Emergencies Ministry said on its website that the helicopter, which included five crew members, crashed on Saturday night near the village of Vostochnoye Munozero. Sixteen of the occupants were unaccounted for, while two were rescued.

Russia's federal Investigative Committee said it had begun a criminal inquiry into the crash on the basis of suspected breaches of air safety rules. Mechanical failure as well as poor weather conditions were possible factors in the crash, it said.

Accidents involving Mi-8 aircraft are frequent in Russia, which has been criticised for its poor air safety record. The Soviet-designed helicopter is widely used for ferrying people and cargo to remote areas of the world's largest country.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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