3 die after helicopter crashes in Jeolla lake

3 die after helicopter crashes in Jeolla lake

24 November 2009

published by joongangdaily.joins.com

Korea– A Korea Forest Service helicopter crashed into a lake in a southern region yesterday, killing all three on board.

Rescue workers in Yeongam County, South Jeolla, discovered a helicopter submerged in Yeongam Lake at 2:25 p.m. yesterday. The helicopter belonged to the Yeongam Forest Aviation Headquarters, a sub-agency of the service, according to the local authorities.

All three individuals aboard, a 52-year-old crew chief named Park along with a 46-year-old named Lee and a 44-year-old also named Lee, both Park’s deputies, were found dead. According to rescue workers, the helicopter was lying at a 70-degree angle and only its tail remained above water.

The local 119 fire department began their search after receiving a call from the aviation office that it had lost contact with the helicopter around quarter past noon. According to the aviation headquarters, the chopper had taken off for a training session for the deputies at 10:30 a.m.

Authorities suspect the helicopter fell into the lake around 1 p.m. It was reportedly out for a lesson on filling up the tank with water from the lake in case of a forest fire in the area.

Police were still investigating the cause of the incident. Since it was mostly a calm and bright day in Yeongam, local police suspect human error or mechanical failure may have caused the crash.

But they also haven’t ruled out the possibility that a sudden gust of wind around the lake could have contributed to the crash.

A government agency that promotes healthy forests around the nation, Korea Forest Service often dispatches helicopters to put out forest fires. It operates eight regional aviation headquarters, mostly in areas deemed vulnerable to forest fires.

The helicopter in question was a Russian model Ka-32T. It was introduced in Korea in 1994.

There are 16 Ka-32Ts in operation in Korea for firefighting missions. The same model crashed while putting out a forest fire in Andong, North Gyeongsang, in 2001 and killed three people on board.

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