Tajikistan: Helicopter carrying 13 mountaineers crashes
Initial statement provided no details on condition of passengers.
Authorities in Tajikistan said an Mi-8 helicopter carrying at least 16 people was forced to make a crash landing on August 12 as it approached the country’s tallest mountain.
Officials were not able to immediately provide any information about the fate of the passengers — 13 mountaineers and three crew members. Another two helicopters carrying rescue and medical personnel were dispatched to the site of the accident.
The group of mountaineers was heading to a base camp ahead of a climbing expedition to Ismoil Somoni Peak, which rises to almost 7,500 meters (24,600 feet) above sea level.
Initial official statements about the crash, which is said to have happened around 4:30 p.m., provided no details about the nationality of the mountaineers.
The accident will come as yet another devastating blow for Tajikistan, whose government had designated this an official year for the promotion of tourism. Late last month, four foreign cyclists were murdered in a hit-and-run attack that was later claimed by the Islamic State group. Early anecdotal reports suggested many travelers had changed their plans to travel to Tajikistan in the wake of the killings.
The Mi-8 involved in the crash is one of the most widely produced aircraft of its type in the world. The Soviet-designed helicopters have often been involved in fatal accidents, in Tajikistan and elsewhere.
In October 2010, an Mi-8 belonging to Tajikistan’s national air force crashed while being used in a security operation in the mountainous east. According to varying reports, anywhere up to 28 people, including many special forces troops, were killed in that incident.
More recently, a military Mi-8 craft was forced on July 9 to perform a high-altitude crash landing during a rescue mission in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The accident was caused by windy conditions. There were no fatalities.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.