Helicopter crash in Belarus kills 5

AP News

10/20/2011 1:51:27 PM - AP News

A Belarusian border patrol helicopter crashed Thursday near the Lithuanian border, killing all five people on board, including three members of a television crew, the agency said.

The Eurocopter twin-engine helicopter crashed at 3:45 p.m. (1245 GMT) near the village of Vileity and burst into flames, border guard spokesman Alexander Tishchenko told The Associated Press.

The cause of the crash was not yet known. The spokesman said a commission was investigating and the head of the border guard service was headed to the site.

The journalists who died were working on a report about border security for Soyuz, or Union, the television and radio company of the loose union formed by Belarus and neighboring Russia.

The border guards identified them as Belarusian citizens Vitaly Prochkovsky, 36; Sergei Shamalov, 39; and Yulia Shaternik, 28.

The Ecureuil AS355 NP helicopter, known as the Twin Squirrel or Twin Star, was used by border guards to patrol the authoritarian former Soviet republic's border with Lithuania, which is now a member of the European Union.