Experts of UTair lines do not rule out that the Mi-8 helicopter that crashed in Sierra Leone was hit by a military weapon, the press-service of the lines told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
The Mi-8MTV of UTair (Khanty-Mansy autonomous area, Siberia) crashed at 13:20 Moscow time on Tuesday. Before the helicopter landed in the populated centre of Yengema, situated in the south-eastern part of the country, all radio contact with the crew was lost, and a rescue group immediately took to the air.
The helicopter was found an hour later on the slope of a mountain in a forested area. A fire had started at the place of the crash. All 24 people on board - three crew members and 21 passengers - were killed.
The lives of the crew and passengers, the helicopter and the air lines' third-party liability were all insured with one of the largest Russian insurance companies.
Andrei Martirosov, director-general of OAO UTair lines, said that the families of those killed would be given all the necessary help and support.
The press-service noted that crew commander Andrei Sokov, co-pilot Vladimir Mikhalitsin, and flight mechanic Alexander Novoselov were one of the most professionally trained crews of the lines, they worked many times in various countries to serve UN missions.
The Mi-8MTV helicopter is described by specialists as one of the world's safest aircraft in its class. The total air time logged by the crashed helicopter since it was put in service is 2,100 hours - this is one-tenth of its life cycle. And following the overhaul carried out in Russia three months ago its air time has been only 200 hours.
The air lines has been using helicopters of this type for many years to carry out different kinds of jobs in many countries of southern and central Africa, including to service UN missions.
In Sierra Leone alone, aircraft of the lines have flown more than 20,000 hours under contacts with the United Nations.
At present 70 specialists of the lines, two Mi-26 and seven Mi-8MTV helicopters, including the crashed one, are working in that country.
A special commission set up in accordance with the norms of international law will start an investigation of the crash within the next few days.
It will examine all versions of what happened, including that of a weapon hit.