COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Russian helicopter with eight people on board has fallen into the sea off Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that belongs to Norway, rescue officials said Thursday.
The rescue service for northern Norway says the helicopter was en route to Barentsburg, Svalbard’s second largest settlement, from the Russian settlement of Pyramiden.
“We have found oil on the water but no wreck,” Olav Bjoergaas, a spokesman for the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers for northern Norway, told The Associated Press. He added that there was poor visibility and heavy snowfall in the region.
Svalbard is more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Norway’s mainland. It’s known for stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers.
The rescue service said the helicopter went down 2 to 3 kilometers (1.3 to 1.9 miles) from Barentsburg at 3.30 p.m.
The aircraft was a Russian Mili Mi-8 helicopter belonging to Russian charter company Konvers Avia.
Russian state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti cited company deputy director Dmitry Zhelyazkov as saying there were eight people aboard — three pilots and five passengers.
Tore Hongset, another spokesman for the rescue coordination center, told Norwegian news agency NTB that it did not receive any mayday signal from the helicopter.
“As far as we have heard, we are talking about a crash,” Hongset said.
Several units, including two helicopters from the local Svalbard governor and ships from the coast guard and local fishermen were at the presumed crash site, Bjoergaas said. Local hospitals were on high alert.
In March 2008, three people were killed after a Russian Mi-8 helicopter with nine people on board crashed about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Barentsburg.
Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.