Six killed after rescue helicopter crashes in Italy

Rescue workers at the crash site in Italy's Abruzzo region on Tuesday. The helicopter was taking a skier to hospital when it crashed, dealing a fresh blow to the area that recently suffered a deadly avalanche.
Rescue workers at the crash site in Italy's Abruzzo region on Tuesday. The helicopter was taking a skier to hospital when it crashed, dealing a fresh blow to the area that recently suffered a deadly avalanche.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ROME • A helicopter taking an injured skier to hospital has crashed against a mountain in central Italy, killing all six people on board, officials said. The accident was a further blow to an area struggling to emerge from many days of heavy snowfall, a series of earthquakes and an avalanche last week that killed at least 17 people, with 12 still missing.

The cause of the crash on Tuesday was not immediately clear, though television images from the site, which showed that only the rear of the helicopter remained intact, were occasionally blurred by fog.

Mayor Gianluca Marrocchi of the nearby town of Lucoli told RAI state television that he had seen the helicopter and had wondered "why it was flying so low".

The helicopter was taking the skier from Campo Felice, a ski resort in the Apennine Mountains, when it went down, said the National Agency for Flight Safety, which ordered a probe and sent a team to the site. It said in a statement that the area is difficult to reach because of "adverse meteorological conditions".

The news dealt a fresh blow to the Abruzzo region, where rescuers have been involved in countless operations over the last week after heavy snow and power cuts isolated many towns and an avalanche demolished a hotel following strong quakes on Wednesday last week.

The death toll rose to 17 on Tuesday after the body of a woman was removed from the ruins of the hotel. Twelve people are still missing, while nine were rescued last week. Two of the people who died in the helicopter had searched for survivors at the hotel, a spokesman for the Civil Protection Agency said.

Mr Luciano D'Alfonso, president of the Abruzzo region, sent his condolences to the families of the victims via Twitter. He said he was praying "for the end of the sequence of tragic events that has struck Abruzzo".

Rescuers continued to search for survivors at the Hotel Rigopiano.

A spokesman for the Italian fire service, Mr Luca Cari, said rescue operations were carefully planned using diagrams of the hotel and taking into account the impact of the avalanche. "We are continuing to search, but we are not finding people alive," he said.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Six killed after rescue helicopter crashes in Italy'. Print Edition | Subscribe