August 10, 2005

Helicopter crashes into Baltic, 14 missing

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Finnish helicopter with 12
passengers and two crew crashed into the Baltic Sea off Estonia
in stormy weather on Wednesday, and rescuers said they could
see no sign of any survivors.

The helicopter, which was on a scheduled commercial flight
en route to Helsinki from the Estonian capital Tallinn, crashed
near the Baltic island of Naissaar three minutes after
take-off, Estonian officials said.

Rescue helicopters, boats and divers from Estonia and
Finland found remains of the helicopter but had not yet located
those on board -- six Finnish passengers and the two Finnish
crew, four Estonians and two Americans.

"We have not found any people. But we are not saying they
are dead," said Estonian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Jaana

"Helicopter remains have been found. For the time being, no
people have been found," said Finnish Foreign Ministry official
Pekka Hyvonen.

There were strong winds in the Baltic, said Estonia's
Meteorological Institute, and some ferries between Tallinn and
Helsinki had been canceled due to storm warnings.

"At this moment only one of the propeller blades is visible
above the surface of the sea, but there's no sign of people,"
the Baltic News Service quoted a company official as saying.

The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76, was owned by the company
Copterline, which flies the 18-minute hop between Tallinn and
Helsinki 28 times a day during the week. The helicopters are
made by a unit of U.S. company United Technologies Corp.

(Reporting by Patrick Lannin in Stockholm, Laura Vinha and
Ott Ummelas in Helsinki and Patrick McLoughlin in Riga)