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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Mi-8 Helicopters Crash in Separate Incidents, Killing 4 People

Two helicopters crashed in separate incidents Thursday, killing four people and injuring five others, officials said.

A civilian Mi-8 helicopter slammed into cargo suspended under a Ka-32 helicopter near the Siberian oil center of Nefteyugansk, said Timur Khikmatov, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry. Four of six people on board the Mi-8 were killed and two others were injured, he said.

In the second crash, which took place near Khabarovsk, a military Mi-8 carrying parachutists ran into trouble at an altitude of 1,200 meters when its tail propeller malfunctioned. NTV television showed a helicopter spinning around in a corkscrew motion, with parachutists descending around it. Eight parachutists bailed out safely and the pilot then crash landed the helicopter, the Air Force said. Three crew members were rushed to the hospital with injuries.

NTV television showed the wrecked helicopter sitting on grass next to a railway track surrounded by fire engines and rescue crews.

"According to preliminary data, the crash was caused by a technical failure," said Major General Alexander Kalyaka, acting head of the Air Force in the region.

Interfax reported that the Air Force suspended all military Mi-8 helicopter flights following the crash, but Air Force chief General Vladimir Mikhailov said later that flights had resumed after technical checkups.

The Air Force uses several hundred Mi-8s. The helicopter, which can carry 24 people and be used as a gunship, was designed in the 1960s, and thousands have been built and widely exported.

Mi-8s, the backbone of military and civilian helicopter aviation, crash frequently in Russia. The accidents are often blamed on poor maintenance.

Andrei Shibitov, the director of the Moscow Helicopter Plant, which manufactures Mi-8s, said many of them already had reached the limit of their lifetime, and many others needed to be modernized.

"It's not a secret that a large part of the fleet needs to be replaced," Shibitov told NTV. "The rest of the fleet needs to be modernized, and they can continue to serve for at least another 10 to 15 years."