Two British tourists have been killed in a helicopter crash in northern Russia, officials confirmed on Sunday.
The men, both in their late 60s, have been named by the Foreign Office as Mark Robertson and Rupert Beaumont. They were killed while on a luxury fishing trip in Russia on Sunday, when a helicopter they had disembarked from tipped on to its side, hitting them with its rotor blades.
The incident occurred on the Rynda River on the Kola Peninsula, about 100 miles south-east of the city of Murmansk, in the north-west of the country. A third man, their Russian tour guide, was also killed, but the pilot of the helicopter is believed to have survived.
Mr Beaumont and Mr Robertson are believed to have been a corporate lawyer and a fine art dealer respectively. The Foreign Office issued a statement on behalf of their families, which read: “Both families are devastated by yesterday's tragic news. Both men will be deeply missed by their families and many friends.
“We are all very grateful for all the help we are receiving at home and in Russia but for now we would appreciate a bit of privacy to allow us to take it all in.”
The pair, described as “VIP tourists” by one local news website, were reported to be staying in a nearby luxury camping facility for tourists on fishing trips.
Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry confirmed the crash, saying the private five-seat Eurocopter EC-120 suddenly banked on to its side while trying to take off.
“After the helicopter landed on the ground it tilted on its side and hit its passengers with its rotor blades,” a spokesperson for Russia’s Investigative Committee said. “The pilot was also injured.”
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that a spokesman for the local investigative body had blamed human error, saying: “It is most likely that the pilot, who also suffered in the accident, is to be blamed for the crash.”
The Rynda River is popular with wealthy tourists on salmon fishing expeditions. A company called Atlantic Salmon Reserve runs a fishing camp called Rynda Lodge, but nobody there was available for comment. Its website features images of a Eurocopter helicopter and lists a “24-hour helicopter call up”.
Chris Clemes, director of a London-based fishing equipment firm, said he had referred customers to Atlantic Salmon Reserve, which he said was one of only two companies offering fishing trips in the region, and the only one on the Rynda River.
“They are very reputable,” he said. “Everyone who has come back has always had great reviews about the staff and the fishing. The river is only open for five months over the summer and June and July are prime season. It attracts a lot of Americans and Britons and a few Russia. It’s high-end and it’s quite expensive to go out there.
“The reason they have the helicopters is for conservation: they don’t want people to walk on the banks and damage the tundra. It’s very remote and is a former military base.”