Bears Maul, Eat Couple and Helicopter Pilot That Crashed in Russian Wilderness

by Amy Myers

A helicopter with a pilot and two successful business employees crashed earlier this week, and unfortunately, the wreck was only half of the group’s problem. Following the disaster, more than one bear found the crash victims in the wilderness. Officials believe that the wild animals dragged the two passengers and pilot away, mauled and ate them.

The incident is as horrific as it is tragic. Piloting the helicopter was famous Russian biathlete Igor Malinovsky, and flying as passengers were Zoya Kaygorodova and Sergey Kolesnyak. On July 16, Malinovsky lost communication because of compromising weather conditions. The helicopter reportedly caught fire before it went down.

The following day, rescuers found the wreckage near the Uzon volcano located in the eastern part of Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. Only burnt pieces of the Mi-8 helicopter remained. Rescuers finally found the couple’s and biathlete’s remains near the Semyachkov Pass, roughly 8 miles from the Uzon volcano, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Officials believe that at some point before the responding team arrived, bears dragged the victims to their current location where they ultimately consumed them.

Following the incident, the Russian Biathlon Association confirmed Malinovsky’s death.

“Multiple world junior champion Igor Malinovsky has died. He loved biathlon and aviation. After completing his sports career, Igor became a pilot and worked in his native Kamchatka,” the statement read. “We would like to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends.”

Likewise, RBA President Vladimir Drachev shared, “It is a tragedy for our sport and our country. Igor Malinovsky was extraordinarily talented, after all there aren’t that many five-time world champions – albeit in youth classes… He was stronger than any of his peers. Unfortunately, he has chosen a profession that involves such great risk. We mourn the loss of a wonderful man.”

Rescuers Aren’t Sure If Helicopter Crash Victims Were Alive When the Bears Arrived

According to Newsweek, the Kamchatka Peninsula has the highest density of bears in the world. Thriving in the remote areas of the peninsula, there are anywhere between 10,000 to 14,000 bears here. Not to mention, Kamchatka brown bears are among the largest species of bears on the planet. Adults can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and stand 10 feet tall. For comparison, grizzly adults weigh up to 900 pounds and stand 9 feet tall.

With how common these animals are in this area of Russia, it’s not surprising that they found their way to the crash. In fact, bears, in general, are opportunists and will often scavenge instead of foraging or fishing. It’s possible that a couple of these animals came across the wreckage and took advantage of the situation. However, it’s still not clear whether or not the crash victims were alive when the apex predators arrived on the scene.

Because of this, officials are conducting an investigation into the deaths of the three individuals.