Rescuers find crashed chopper, body of presumed victim near Dokdo
SEOUL/POHANG/DAEGU/DONGHAE, South Korea-- Rescue workers on Friday located the wrecked chopper that crashed near the Dokdo islets in the East Sea the previous night and found a body believed to be of one of seven missing people.
The chopper belonging to the National Fire Agency fell at around 11:30 p.m., Thursday, a few minutes after it took off from Dokdo. An injured person from a fishing boat, a friend and five rescue officials were reportedly on board.
"Three Korea Coast Guard divers who were searching in seas 600 meters south of the Dokdo islets and 72 meters underwater between 1:35 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. found the rescue chopper," a police official said at a press briefing at the Korea Coast Guard office in Donghae near the East Sea.
"Now that the chopper has been found, we will focus on further search and rescue operations," the official said.
The Coast Guard said a remotely operated vehicle found a body presumed to be of a victim of the incident near the chopper. Authorities said it will be possible to confirm the identity of the body after it is brought up to the surface.
Later in the day, the Navy's Cheonghaejin submarine salvage ship arrived at the scene to join the night search operation for which a total of 14 ships and four helicopters have been mobilized, according to the police.
They were looking over an area of roughly 1,300 square kilometers near the point where the chopper was found, after dividing the area into seven sections.
The underwater operation was wrapped up at night due to poor visibility and powerful currents, though the above-water search will continue through the night.
Authorities said they will resume the underwater operation at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, with a plan to dispatch an unmanned undersea vehicle of the Cheonghaejin to the scene.
The National Fire Agency said the EC-225 Super Puma long-range passenger transport helicopter, developed by Eurocopter, was introduced in 2016.
The two pilots of the doomed chopper were both veterans with at least 17 years of career experience either in the military or civilian sector, according to the agency.
The model is the same as the helicopter that crashed off the coast of Norway in April 2016. That chopper's main rotor blades separated from its body, causing a crash that killed all 13 people aboard.
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordered relevant ministries to put in full-fledged efforts to rescue survivors and search for missing passengers.
President Moon Jae-in ordered a safety inspection of the crashed model, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung.
The chopper can carry up to 28 passengers and fly at 324 kph.
The crashed EC-225 chopper and an additional one had been in operation by local fire authorities and were mostly used to rescue people and fight wildfires. The other one is in service to cover Seoul and the nearby Gyeonggi Province.
Source: Yonhap News Agency