ISTANBUL (AP) — A firefighting helicopter crashed Wednesday as it headed to the Turkish port of Marmaris to combat a wildfire, killing two Russian crew members, Turkey's minister of agriculture and forestry said.
The minister, Vahit Kirsci, said two Turkish citizens and three others Russians on the helicopter were injured but were not in critical condition. The deceased were a flight engineer and a flight technician.
An official at the General Directorate of Forestry told journalists the helicopter had flown in from the northern province of Kastamonu to join others at Marmaris, a resort town on the Aegean Sea.
There was no immediate explanation of why the helicopter, a Russian Kamov KA-32, crashed into a field. The governor of Denizli said a crash investigation has been opened.
One person suspected of causing the wildfire was detained, according to a statement by the Mugla province public prosecutor’s office. The wildfire erupted in forests around the Yalancibogaz area of Marmaris. Images showed heavy smoke behind lush hills that bordered the sea.
Strong winds fueled the blaze. Twenty-three helicopters and fourteen planes have dumped water on the fire, while more than 700 forestry personnel, 83 water trucks and police water cannons worked on the ground.
Last summer, blazes fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions, including in Marmaris, killing at least eight people and countless animals.
The Turkish government at the time came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.
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The Associated Press