Two Russian pilots were hospitalized with serious injuries after a civilian helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing at least 16 passengers, a Russian diplomat said on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.
A Russian Mi-8 helicopter owned by the Vertical-T air company crashed during takeoff from the Kandahar air field in Afghanistan on Sunday. There were 3 crew members and 18 passengers on board.
"Two Russians and a Belarusian were seriously injured in the crash. The Russians are the commander of the crew and the second pilot, and the Belarusian is the flight engineer. They are at a Canadian hospital in Kandahar," a Russian embassy official in Kabul said.
"There is no information on the nationality of the passengers," the diplomat said, adding that two passengers were also injured in the accident.
An investigation into the crash is being conducted by the air base administration and the Interstate Aviation Committee.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement on Sunday that the civilian-contracted aircraft was not shot down by Taliban militants.
The ISAF frequently charters Russian Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters to transport goods and personnel around the country.