2 bodies recovered from crash scene of chopper near Dokdo islets

DOKDO/DONGHAE, South Korea-- Rescue workers recovered two out of three bodies found near a crashed helicopter in the East Sea on Saturday.

The rescue workers were working to identify the two male bodies. A third body found inside the fuselage has yet to be recovered.

The three were believed to be among the seven missing people aboard a crashed chopper near South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

The helicopter belonging to the fire agency crashed Thursday night, about two to three minutes after a takeoff from Dokdo, with seven people on board, including an injured person from a fishing boat.

The two males found near tail rotors were not wearing clothes on their upper bodies.

The two appeared to have removed their shirts as they could have been waiting to be rescued, said a U.S. military helicopter pilot, who saw of a picture of the crashed chopper obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

"There are no rules for undressing when passengers are waiting to be rescued," the U.S. helicopter pilot said, asking not to be identified. "Due to buoyancy under the water, clothes get wrapped up and air comes into the shoulder part, which makes people struggle to swim."

The fuselage was upside down when it was found. The tail was snapped and located some 110 meters off the fuselage. The exact cause of the crash has not been determined.

The Navy's Cheonghaejin submarine rescue ship arrived at the scene Friday to join the night search operation for which 14 ships and four helicopters were mobilized.

"Using remotely operated underwater vehicles, the salvage ship will focus on locating the fuselage of the chopper and searching for those on board," a Coast Guard official said.

A total of 18 ships, including five Navy vessels and five Coast Guard ones, were dispatched to the scene to search areas spanning some 37 kilometers south of Dokdo. Seven airplanes were mobilized and around 50 divers were working for the rescue mission.

"Based on the outcome of the search, we will cooperate with the Navy to consider reasonable measures to salvage the (submerged) chopper and the missing people," the official said.

When asked by reporters about the time needed to lift the wrecked chopper from the water, the maritime police said it depends on weather conditions.

The Coast Guard is considering a plan to salvage the fuselage later in the day as the weather conditions are not likely to be good from Sunday.

Firefighters said they will prioritize supporting the families of those missing.

"During the maintenance process, problems were not detected," the fire service said, when asked if there were any signs of trouble before the helicopter took off.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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