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Passenger helicopter crashes in Siberia, at least 19 dead

July 2, 2013 at 7:51 AM

MOSCOW, July 2 (UPI) -- At least 19 people were killed Tuesday when a helicopter crashed in northeastern Russia, officials said.

The Mil Mi-8 helicopter, carrying 25 passengers and three crew members, was on a routine passenger flight in Yakutia in Siberia, when it lost contact with air traffic controllers, RIA Novosti reported.

The helicopter's tail struck a hillside after encountering turbulence about 41 miles after it departed Deputatsky about 5,281 miles east of Moscow, regional emergencies official Anatoly Skrebykin said.

The watchdog Interstate Aviation Committee said 19 people died in the crash, but Skrebykin said only the crew and two passengers survived.

"Information about the rest [of the passengers] is being clarified," Skrebykin said.

He said the passenger manifest indicated there were 14 adults and 11 children, including three less than 2 years of age.

Local Polyarnye Airlines owned the helicopter.

RIA Novosti said Yakutia's long winters and permafrost make road construction difficult, so passenger helicopters are the only reliable transportation method in the sparsely populated area that is about the size of India.

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