Helicopter crashes into dam after fighting fire

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Helicopter crashes into dam after fighting fire

ANDONG, North Gyeongsang - A helicopter of the Korea Forest Service that was heading back to its base in Andong, North Gyeongsang, after dumping water on a forest fire crashed into Imha Dam. The two pilots went missing and an engineer was injured.

The Andong Forest Aviation Office of the Korea Forest Service said yesterday that an S-64 helicopter, a fire-fighting aircraft that carries 8,000 liters (2,113 gallons) of water, crashed into the dam around 9:25 a.m. when it was returning to base after fighting a fire at the Yeongdeok national forest in North Gyeongsang.

The 57-year-old captain Park Dong-hee and co-pilot Jin Yong-gi, 46, went missing. Hwang Young-yong, 41, an engineer, swam to shore and was later sent to a nearby hospital after being rescued around 10:40 a.m.

The Forest Service judges that the helicopter suddenly crashed while it was discharging excess water at an altitude of about 10 meters (32.8 feet) above the lake, which is about 24.6 million square meters (6,078 acres) in area.

After the accident, about 300 rescuers from the North Gyeongsang Fire Service Headquarters, Andong Fire Station and Andong Police Precinct as well as the Forest Service were immediately dispatched for a rescue operation with a helicopter and jet skis.

The Andong police said they found the broken fuselage of the helicopter 27 meters underwater around 11:45 a.m.

The S-64 helicopter was manufactured by the U.S. company Erickson. It can fly up to 2 hours and 30 minutes with a maximum speed of 204 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour).

The Forest Service purchased the helicopter in 2007 at a price of 16.7 billion won ($15.4 million) for fire suppression and rescue operations.

By Kim Yoon-ho [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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