A helicopter carrying two pilots and 12 passengers crashed and sank in the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast. Bodies were found in the wreckage and officials said there was little hope of any survivors.
The U.S.-made Sikorsky S-76 helicopter was on a commercial flight from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, to Helsinki, Finland, when it went down in strong winds shortly after takeoff about three miles off the coast, officials said. An unmanned underwater robot had found the wreckage on the seabed, 157 feet below the surface, but that there was no sign of survivors, Estonian maritime rescue service spokesman Aivar Murikse said.
"We couldn't find anybody, only debris," Murikse said. "Apparently, the impact of the crash was quite hard."
"It seems like everybody is inside," Murikse said. He said the hull was nearly intact, but the front windows were shattered and the cabin was filled with water.
"Probably they died at the impact moment," Murikse said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but a storm in the area caused operators to cancel the fast ferries between Tallinn and Helsinki, and wind speeds of more than 45 mph were reported on the Baltic Sea.
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said there was no hope of finding anyone alive, and Finnish Interior Minister Kari Rajamaki sent condolences to the families of the victims.
Kairi Leivo, a spokeswoman at the Estonian Embassy in Helsinki, said the pilots were Finns and the passengers included six Finns, four Estonians and two U.S. citizens. Their names were not released.
Finland's National Bureau of Investigation sent forensic experts to help Estonian officials identify the victims, the bureau said. They were expected in Tallinn by Wednesday evening.
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