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Avalanche rescuers mourn six colleagues who died in helicopter crash

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Avalanche rescuers mourn six colleagues who died in helicopter crash
Rescuers work to evacuate bodies from the wreckage. Photo: AFP
09:24 CET+01:00
Two of the men who died when an emergency services helicopter crashed in the central Italian mountains had been part of the rescue effort at avalanche-hit Hotel Rigopiano.

All six people on board the helicopter died in the crash on Tuesday afternoon, which took place on the return journey from a mission to evacuate an injured skier from the Campo Felice ski resort.

The cause of the crash is still unclear, though weather conditions in the area were foggy on Tuesday which may have led the helicopter to crash into the mountain.

The victims have been named as doctor Walter Bucci, 57; alpine rescuer Davide de Carolis; 40, pilot Gianmarco Zavoli, 46, flight engineer Matrella Mario, 42; nurse Serpetti Giuseppe, 59, and the injured skier, 50-year-old Ettore Palanca.

The helicopter wreckage. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Rescuer De Carolis had been one of the first on the scene at Rigopiano and pulled one of the hotel's eleven survivors from the rubble to safety. 

Bucci, the doctor on board the helicopter, had also participated in relief efforts at Rigopiano, providing assistance to survivors.

De Carolis, Bucci and nurse Guiseppe were all natives of the mountainous Abruzzo region, which was last week shaken by four major earthquakes and extreme snowfall.

The National Alpine Rescue Team updated its Facebook page with a black ribbon over the logo to symbolize mourning for the six victims. "There are no words," they wrote.

The mayor of Foggia, Mario's hometown, paid tribute to the flight engineer. 

"Mario was one of those heroes who, day after day, carry out their important missions out of the spotlight, saving lives and rescuing people in distress with an extraordinary sense of duty and self-sacrifice," he said.

Rescuers at the scene of the crash. Photo: AFP

Tuesday's accident happened as firefighters, mountain police and other emergency services are grappling with the aftermath of the earthquakes, the heaviest snowfalls experienced in decades and the avalanche that swamped the Hotel Rigopiano.

The helicopter issued a crash signal and police received reports of a loud explosion being heard, a police spokesman said.

"The area where it came down is hard to access at the best of times, and thick fog is making it even more difficult," the spokesman told AFP.

The map below shows the location of the Campo Felice resort, in Rocca di Cambio, south of L'Aquila and the Gran Sasso National Park where the avalanche-hit Hotel Rigopiano is located.

 


 
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