Italy: Helicopter crash kills 6 aboard, latest on avalanche

The wreckage of an helicopter lies in the snow after crashing in the Campo Felice ski area, central Italy, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. A helicopter ferrying an injured skier off the slopes crashed Tuesday into a mountainside in central Italy, killing all six people aboard in the latest tragedy to hit a region slammed by recent earthquakes, heavy snowfall and an avalanche, officials said. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FARINDOLA, Italy (AP) – The Latest on rescue efforts at Italian hotel struck by an avalanche (all times local):

3: 10 a.m. – Officials say a helicopter ferrying an injured skier off the slopes crashed into a central Italian mountainside and killed all six people aboard, in the latest tragedy to hit a region slammed by recent earthquakes, heavy snowfall and an avalanche.

Television footage and photographs from the scene showed the helicopter was smashed to pieces in the snow, with only the tail propellers and rear section still intact. Rescue crews brought the bodies down in sleds to waiting snowcats.

The crash took place in the same mountain range as the avalanche, but the two incidents weren’t related.

An official with the carabinieri forestry police in the regional capital of L’Aquila said all six people were killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

Italy’s civil protection agency spokesman Luigi D’Angelo said those on board included the skier, medical personnel and flight crew.

Poor visibility had slowed the arrival of rescue crews, and eyewitnesses said heavy clouds blanketed the area at the time of the crash.

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2:20 p.m. – An official says a helicopter ferrying an injured skier off the slopes has crashed in central Italy with at least six people aboard, another tragedy to hit a region slammed by recent earthquakes, heavy snowfall and an avalanche.

Italy’s civil protection agency spokesman Luigi D’Angelo said poor visibility was hampering efforts by rescue crews to reach the downed chopper. He said the helicopter was taking the injured skier from the Campo Felice ski area to the Abruzzo regional capital of L’Aquila.

He said unconfirmed information indicates there were six or seven people aboard, including the skier, medical personnel and flight crew.

The area is in Abruzzo, the same mountainous region where emergency crews have been working around the clock to recover victims of the powerful Jan. 18 avalanche that crushed a hotel.

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1 p.m. – Italy’s civil protection agency says it’s checking reports of a helicopter being down in central Abruzzo, though it’s not clear if it’s involved in the avalanche operation.

RAI state television said the helicopter was ferrying someone injured from a nearby ski area in Campo Felice.

Ornella De Luca of the civil protection agency says it received information of an incident involving an emergency helicopter, but that it wasn’t clear what was involved.

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8:20 a.m. – The death toll from an avalanche in central Italy has climbed to 12, with 17 people still missing under a mountain resort buried by tons of snow and rubble.

Firefighters located five more bodies overnight and the search was continuing Tuesday in hopes that someone might still be alive six days after the disaster. Rescue crews were buoyed by the discovery Monday of three of the Hotel Rigopiano’s resident puppies, though they stressed that the white sheepdogs were found in a boiler room far from where the missing are thought to be.

The first funerals will be held Tuesday.

Prosecutors are investigating whether a series of missed communications, underestimations of risks and delays in responding to days of heavy snowfall contributed to the toll from the Jan. 18 avalanche.

 

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