Bears have mauled and eaten a wealthy couple and a pilot after their helicopter crashed in the Russian wilderness.
The helicopter was flown by well-known Russian biathlete Igor Malinovsky, with business people Zoya Kaygorodova and Sergey Kolesnyak on board.
On July 16, the helicopter lost communication due to bad weather. The next day, the helicopter wreckage was discovered by rescuers in Kamchatka, a peninsula located in the Russian Far East
Three hours later, remains of the trio were found near the Semyachkov Pass, just 13 kilometers from the Uzon volcano, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
It is believed the corpses were dragged away, mauled and eaten by wild bears that populate the region, NTV reported.
The helicopter reportedly caught fire when it came crashing down.
Kamchatka has one of the highest densities of brown bears on the earth. The peninsula was once highly populated with the predator, however now they remain in remote, rural areas. An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 bears live in the Peninsula, which is about the size of California.
Bears do not usually seek out humans to eat. They usually eat plants, insects, fish, and other smaller animals. Kamchatka brown bears have access to richer food sources such as salmon, pine nuts and berries. However, bears are opportunistic hunters, meaning they take advantage of food that is readily available to them. Grizzly bears in particular, will often scavenge the remains of prey that is already dead.
Kamchatka brown bears are one of the largest bears in the world. Males can reach a weight of 1,500 pounds.
The bears may have sifted through the helicopter remains to get to the passengers, the Daily Star reported.
The couple were reportedly tourists to the area, and had been exploring the peninsula. It is unclear whether the passengers were dead before being dragged off by the predators. Bears rarely attack humans unless provoked or threatened in some way.
Rescuers noted at the scene that the weather was not good for flying, Euro News Weekly reported. Clouds were low, meaning there was potential low visibility.
A criminal investigation has been launched into the crash and the deaths of the passengers, NTV reported.
The helicopter flown had belonged to a company owned by Malinovsky’s father, Vladimir Malinovsky.
Tributes to Malinovsky were posted online, including from the Russian biathlete society, Biathlonrus.
The statement read that he had loved biathlon and aviation. He had become a pilot in Kamchatka after his sports career.