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16 dead as 'copter ditches in lake

A helicopter has crashed into a lake in Russia killing 16 of the 18 people on board.

The two passengers who survived floated to the surface still strapped into their seats and were rescued by fishermen. They were taken to hospital with broken legs and other injuries, Rossiya state television reported.

The Mi-8 helicopter broke into three pieces after crashing into the Munozera lake in the north-western Murmansk region in bad weather on Saturday evening, emergency officials said.

The helicopter belonged to the fertiliser producer Apatit, whose top executives were onboard along with regional government officials, according to the parent company, PhosAgro. The company published a list of 13 passengers and five crew members believed to have been on the flight.

Divers recovered seven bodies today and were continuing to search the crash site, state news agencies reported.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation, but was most likely due either to technical failure or the pilot's inability to handle difficult weather conditions, said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the federal Investigative Committee.

PhosAgro general director Andrei Guryev said in a statement that the purpose of the trip was to look at the potential for developing tourism in the Murmansk region and to familiarise officials with the tourism infrastructure owned by Apatit.

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