A fire-fighting helicopter crashed into the sea off the island of Samos on Wednesday afternoon. Four crew member missing. Big Search and Rescue Operation underway.
According to preliminary information, the helicopter, type ER-MH4, crashed while it was attempting to collect water from the sea.
The helicopter was participating in the wildfire in Palaiochori village of the island in the eastern Aegean Sea.
It crashed some 300 meters west off the beach of Plaka near Agios Minas
Pictures via Samos24.gr
According to the Fire Department, it is a private helicopter hired to participate in the extinguishing of the fire.
State broadcaster ERT reports that the 3-member crew are foreign nationals – 1 from Romania, 2 from Moldavia – and one Greek translation. The aircraft was hired from Ukraine.
Local media report that there powerful winds blowing with intensity of 6 to 7 Beaufort in the area.
Aerial means, coast guard vessels and fishing boats are participating in the SAR operation.
UPDATE 7:00 p.m.
ERT reported that two out of four missing persons have been rescued.
One of them is reportedly onboard of a Super Puma helicopter that took off from the neighboring islands of Chios to joint the SAR operation, the second person is onboard of a Coast Guard vessel.
According to local media, the first person was rescued by a fishing boat and then handed over to the Coast guard.
One of the rescued is the Romanian pilot of the crew, ANT1 reports.
According to official statement, the helicopter took off from Samos airport to join the fire-fighting operation at 4:40 Wednesday afternoon.
The crash took place about an hour later.
It was hired by the Fire Service, the statement added.
UPDATE 7:30 p.m.
The Romanian pilot apparently rescued by a fishing boat was taken to the shore.
Video via samos24.gr
Video: The pilot was transported to an ambulance that took him to the hospital of Samos.
The nationality of the second rescued person is not known yet.
The Search and Rescue operation for the two other missing persons continue.
UPDATE 9:00 p.m.
There was a slight confusion in earlier reporting about the number of rescued and missing persons onboard of the fire-fighting helicopter that crashed into the sea on Wednesday afternoon.
According to latest information at 9 o’ clock:
Rescued and in good health contition is the pilot, a Romanian national.
Two crew members were recovered by the Coast Guard without being conscious, though. Despite CPR efforts by the rescuers, they did not respond and were transferred to the hospital of Samos. Official announcements are expected soon.
According to ERT TV, the Romanian pilot said that all four managed to come out of the helicopter after the crash.
The Search and Rescue operation continues in order to locate the fourth member.
On board of the helicopter were four people: one Romanian national, two Moldovan operators and one Greek liaison-translator.
Eyewitnesses said that the helicopter that was hired by the Fire Service for the fire season, crashed into the sea as it was attempting to collect water for the wildfire in Palaiochori village of Samos.
UPDATE 10:30 p.m.
The four crew member of the helicopter was found alive late on Wednesday. The man managed to swim to the shore that was some 300 meters away from the spot where the crash took place.
The man was located by the Coast Guard and was taken to the hospital.
The rescue was announce by the Coast Guard short after 10 o’ clock Wednesday night.
Συνέχεια ενημέρωσης: Σώος εντοπίστηκε στην ξηρά ο 4ος επιβαίνοντας του ελικοπτέρου που κατέπεσε στην περιοχή ΠΛΑΚΑ νδ της Σάμου #ελικοπτερο #Σαμος
— ΛΙΜΕΝΙΚΟ ΣΩΜΑ (@HCoastGuard) July 13, 2022
The man is of Moldavian nationality.
According to media information so far, rescued are the Romanian pilot and the Moldavian engineer, while the Moldavian co-pilot and the Greek translator lost their lives in the crash.
The Independent Authority Investigating Air Incidents has been called to investigate the causes of the helicopter crash.
UPDATE 11:30 p.m.
According to latest information:
Rescued alive are: the pilot from Moldavia, the engineer also form Moldavia
Dead are: The co-pilot from Roma and the Greek liaison-translator
The last person to be rescued, the man who swom to the shore of Plaka is the helicopter’s pilot.
The engineer, the first person to be rescued, told authorities that the copter crashed due to a very strong wind gust that brought them upside down.
He said that he remembered that with the impact everyone got out of the helicopter, but then he lost them out of his sight.