Downed helicopter's flight recorder found, air sightseeing tours suspended nationwide

April 06, 2023 - 21:02
As of 9pm Thursday, four out of five bodies of the people on board have been recovered from the sea.
One of the vessels involved in the search and rescue efforts in the Hạ Long Bay area for the downed helicopter. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Authorities have recovered the 'black box' flight recorder and most of the Bell-505 helicopter that crashed into the sea during a Hạ Long Bay sightseeing tour on April 5, killing all five onboard.

All the recovered parts have been transported to Cát Bà Border Station for further examination.

As of 9pm yesterday, four out of five bodies of the people on board have been recovered from the sea.

All efforts are being made to recover the final passenger of the five that were aboard, said Colonel Khúc Thành Dư, Commander of the Quảng Ninh Military Command.

The helicopter, owned by the Northern Việt Nam Helicopter Company under the Việt Nam Helicopter Corporation, had an accident at about 5:06pm on Wednesday in the sea off Gia Luân Commune, Cát Hải District of Hải Phòng City, while carrying four Vietnamese tourists on a sightseeing tour of Hạ Long Bay.

The engine of the helicopter. — VNA/VNS Photo

The fourth victim was found yesterday morning inside the body of the helicopter, which was lying at the bottom of the sea.

The pilot's body, Colonel Chu Quang Minh, was recovered earlier in the morning, while the bodies of two passengers (one male and one female) were recovered the night of the incident.

Deputy Prime Minister Lê Văn Thành went to the site of the incident on Wednesday night to direct search and rescue efforts.

The large scale of the search area, in addition to the presence of caves and narrow crevices in the sea, has made it harder to recover the bodies, according to military officers at the scene.

Military officers trained in scuba diving have been deployed to find the still unaccounted-for victim as soon as possible before a new cold wave is set to affect the seas in this region.

More than 500 officers and soldiers from the armed forces and several local and central agencies, including 300 from Quảng Ninh, are joining the search and rescue mission, along with several ships and canoes.

On the same day, leaders of units and departments of Quảng Ninh Province and Hạ Long City met with the victims' families to hand over financial assistance and discuss a plan to transport the bodies home for burials.

All the tourists in the helicopter were from the central city of Đà Nẵng, and were visiting the northern region for the birthday of one of the victims, according to local media.

Halting helicopter tours

Đinh Việt Thắng, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Việt Nam, confirmed yesterday that all helicopter sightseeing tours will be suspended across the country until further notice following the deadly incident.

Việt Nam Helicopter Corporation, a State-owned enterprise under the Ministry of National Defence, operates sightseeing helicopter flights.

The company offers scenic helicopter tours at various destinations such as Hạ Long Bay, Đà Nẵng City, Điện Biên Province, Mai Châu (Hoà Bình Province), Mù Cang Chải (Yên Bái Province) during the rice harvest season, and Vũng Tàu-Côn Đảo.

The Hạ Long Bay, Đà Nẵng, and Vũng Tàu tours are available year-round (upon request), while other destinations are seasonal.

The cost of helicopter sightseeing tours of Hạ Long Bay range from VNĐ2.7 million (US$115 for 10 minutes, front seat) to VNĐ7.3 million ($311 for 30 minutes, back seat).

This is considered one of the high-end tourism activities in Quảng Ninh. — VNS

The coordinates of the location where the debris of the downed helicopter was first found Wednesday night.