Bears have crushed and eaten a wealthy couple and a pilot after their helicopter crashed in the Russian wilderness.
The helicopter was flown by the famous Russian biathlete Igor Malinovsky, with businessmen Zoya Kaygorodova and Sergey Kolesnyak on board.
On July 16, the helicopter lost communication due to bad weather, Euro Weekly News reported. The next day, the helicopter wreckage was discovered by rescuers in Kamchatka, a peninsula 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 Emergencies.
It is believed that the bodies were dragged away, crushed and eaten by wild bears that populate the region, NTV reported.
The helicopter must have caught fire when it crashed.
Kamchatka has one of the highest densities of brown bears on earth. The peninsula was once very populated with predators, but now they remain in remote, rural areas. An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 bears live on the peninsula, which is about the size of California.
Bears do not usually visit 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, which means they take advantage of food that is readily available to them. Grizzly bears in particular will often catch the remains of prey that are already dead.
Kamchatka brown bear is one of the largest bears in the world. The males can reach a weight of 1500 pounds.
The bears may have sifted through the helicopter remains to reach the passengers, the Daily Star reported.
The couple were reportedly tourists to the area and had explored the peninsula. It is unclear whether the passengers were dead before being dragged by the predators. Bears rarely attack humans unless they are provoked or threatened in some way.
Rescuers noticed on the spot that the weather was not good for flying, Euro News Weekly reported. The clouds were low, which means it was potentially low visibility.
A criminal investigation has been launched into the accident and the deaths of the passengers, NTV reported.
The helicopter that was flown had belonged to a company owned by Malinovsky’s father, Vladimir Malinovsky.
Malinovsky’s tribute was posted online, including from the Russian biathlon community, Biathlonrus.
The statement said he had loved biathlon and aviation. He had become a pilot in Kamchatka after his sports career.
Newsweek has contacted the Ministry of Emergency Management for comment.