Rescue teams found the wreckage of an ambulance helicopter in waters off South Korea’s eastern coast Friday and were continuing to look for its seven crewmembers and passengers, who were presumed dead.
The helicopter had picked up an injured crab fisherman before it crashed around 11:30 pm Thursday near the South Korea-controlled islets of Dokdo between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Dozens of aircraft and vessels and more than 30 divers have been searching the area since around midnight.
Divers found the wrecked helicopter about 70 meters (230 feet) below the surface around 2:30 pm, said Hwang Sang-hoon, a Korea Coast Guard official, in a televised briefing.
Rescue workers are now focusing their search in nearby waters while South Korea’s navy plans to deploy remotely controlled underwater vehicles to search the wreckage, he said.
Hwang admitted the chance of finding survivors was low, considering the time of the crash and cold water.
“We will closely examine the body of helicopter’s body and search for any (crewmembers and passengers) inside before deciding whether to raise the copter,” Hwang said.
Seong Ho-seon, another rescue official, said the helicopter was taking the injured fisherman to a hospital in the mainland city of Daegu, but likely crashed into the sea amid strong winds within two minutes after liftoff from Dokdo.
The Dokdo islets, called Takeshima in Japanese, are a subject of territorial disputes between the countries.