Helicopter crashes in Malaysia's Sarawak state, killing three Russians

Three Russians were killed when their logging helicopter crashed and burst into flames in a rain forest on Malaysia's Borneo island during a heavy downpour, police said Sunday.

The Russian-made Kamov KA-32 helicopter crashed in the interior of Sarawak state on Saturday afternoon, just three days after a ban on helicopter flights in the area during the storm season ended.

The three dead _ the pilot, an engineer and a mechanic _ were the only people on board the aircraft, said police Chief Inspector Steward Davis of the Sarawak police headquarters in Kuching.

Their identities have not been released, Davis said.

He said the helicopter was winching logs to be transferred to waiting trucks when it crashed near a river bank in heavy rain.

Logging workers recovered the body of the pilot but could not reach the other two because part of the helicopter was submerged in water, he said.

A team of police personnel and firefighters was sent to the crash site, which is two hours by speedboat and another five-hour drive on land from the interior town of Kapit, Davis said.

In early August, Malaysia announced a ban on helicopter flights over the Borneo rain forests for the month following a string of crashes that killed 16 people since last year. Saturday's crash is the third this year.

The government said the ban will be imposed each year in June, July and August because of the storm season, when there are strong winds and heavy rains, AP reported.

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