Searchers have found the remains of the missing Chinese helicopter and people on board in the mountains near the quake epicenter town Yingxiu, according to a military source Tuesday.
The debris of the downed Mi-171 helicopter was found in the bushes northwest of Yingxiu Township at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday. Militia and reservists mobilized by the Chengdu Military Area Command found the missing chopper.
A crew of five military personnel and 14 quake victims were all found dead. The helicopter was broken up with parts including the propeller, airframe and empennage found scattered in the bushes.
Based on the degree of the severe damage and the surrounding terrain, the helicopter might have hit a mountain before it crashed, according to an official with the relief headquarters of the Chengdu Military Area Command.
The military camouflage of the helicopter made the debris hardly visible to the naked eye, military sources said,adding the thick forest and bushes in the mountainous areas, along with aftershock-triggered landslides, also hampered searching efforts,
More than 100 helicopters were sent to locate the downed chopper, while more than 300 rescue teams, consisting of more than 10,000 troops, armed police, militia, reservists and local residents, combed the region to search for the missing aircraft.
The Mi-171 military transport helicopter crashed at 2:56 p.m. on May 31while transferring 14 injured local residents from the epicenter of the May 12 magnitude-8.0 quake in the southwestern Sichuan Province.
The helicopter, affiliated with the quake-relief troops of the Chengdu Military Area Command, was reported to have encountered strong turbulence and fog.
A five-member crew were on board. The crew, led by Qiu Guanghua, had completed 63 flights, transferring 25.8 tons of relief materials, 87 quake relief workers and 234 victims since the May 12 quake jolted Sichuan Province.
The accident occurred among very complicated terrain while the weather was unpredictably abominable, said sources with the Chengdu Military Command Area.
(Xinhua News Agency June 10, 2008)