13 killed as Ukraine helicopter crashes in Black Sea

( dpa )- A Ukrainian helicopter crashed in the Black Sea on Thursday killing 13 and leaving only one survivor, officials at Ukraine's Border Troops command said.

The accident happened in the north-western Black Sea, near the mouth of the Danube River.

A total 14 persons, 3 flight crew and 11 passengers, had been aboard the aircraft at the time of the crash. Eleven of the dead were identified as border security staff, and another person killed was a civilian.

The identity of the single survivor, and the 13th person killed, was not immediately made public.

Earlier news reports had given the total number of persons aboard the helicopter at 13, and given 12 as the number dead.

The Ukrainian border troops Mi-8 helicopter had been carrying personnel and two tonnes of supplies to Zmeyniy Island, a rocky outcrop claimed by some 60 kilometres south of the Danube's mouth.

The flight from the mainland to Zmeyniy Island by Mi-8 lasts approximately 45 minutes. It was not clear when exactly, or for what reason, the helicopter had crashed.

The downed helicopter was visible in shallow water, and had apparently almost reached the island before hitting the water, witnesses said.

Two motor launches and a pair of helicopters participated in a search of the area. Searchers had recovered all 13 of the bodies, according to a Ukraine navy statement.

One of the helicopters carried the single survivor to a hospital in Ukraine's Odesa province, where he was being treated for multiple injuries and listed in "very serious condition."

The Mi-8 is a cargo/passenger aircraft with a maximum capacity of 24 persons. Though of now-obsolescent Soviet design it is considered highly reliable, by local standards.

The crashed chopper, manufactured in 1983 and fully overhauled in 2006, had undergone all scheduled maintenance and preflight checks, and had been certified as safe to fly, said Sergei Astakhov, a border troops spokesman.

Ukraine has seen unsettled weather in recent days, with snows even in lowlands and temperatures hovering slightly above freezing, alternating with sunny weather from 10 - 13 degrees Centigrade.

Zmeyniy Island is the site of a Border Troops station maintained by Ukraine on the 1.5 square kilometre rock to buttress a Kiev claim to territorial waters in the region.

Neighbouring Romania says the claim is baseless and the border troops installation meaningless, as Zemyniy Island has always been uninhabited.

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