Forty-eight hours after a harrowing distress call from a helicopter crash survivor in the mountains of eastern Turkey, Turkey’s interior minister said Friday that rescuers have finally discovered the wreckage.
Six people were aboard the helicopter when it went down Wednesday. At least three were killed and the fate of the other three was not immediately known. The rescue effort, which involved thousands of soldiers, police and volunteers, has been severely hampered by deep snow and high mountains. One of the rescuers who reached the wreckage Friday afternoon said he could see the bodies of three passengers, including the news reporter whose emergency call was the last communication from the aircraft after the crash. “The helicopter broke into pieces, and the wreckage is spread across the ground,” Abidin told CNN sister network CNN Turk by telephone. He said the visibility was terrible because of heavy snow. Abidin added that the rescue party had to build a fire to stay warm, and that they themselves were now waiting for a helicopter to transport them away from the frigid mountaintop. The rented helicopter was taking Muhsin Yazicioglu, the leader of a small ultra-nationalist political party, back from a campaign rally on Wednesday when it crashed.
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Turkish political parties have suspended campaign rallies in the wake of the crash. Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the helicopter crashed, one of the survivors managed to make a cell phone call to an emergency service. Reporter Ismail Gunes pleaded by phone, saying, “I’m starting to freeze. I feel cold. It is snowing. I am inside the helicopter. I guess the people here died. Erhan, brother. Erhan, brother. Nothing. No sound from anyone. So bad.” A female dispatcher tells Gunes that the police are trying to locate him. He then calls out again: “Erhan, brother. Brother, try to (open your eyes). He is lying, moaning.” Watch the search through snow and ice for helicopter » “Is there any other sound from anyone” the dispatcher asks. “No, no,” Gunes says. “My foot is broken badly. Miss, haven’t you located us yet We will freeze here. I guess the other people are dead. I can’t move my foot. It is broken really badly. When will you determine our location, miss”
The crash happened in a mountainous region of eastern Turkey amid rough terrain and adverse weather conditions, officials and media reports said. It also occurred just days before municipal elections across the country.