World junior biathlon champion Igor Malinovsky has died after the helicopter he was piloting crashed in a remote area of Russia.
Malinovsky, 25, and two others were killed when the Robinson copter he was piloting crashed near the Uzon volcano, in the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East.
All communication with the helicopter was lost on Saturday evening (16th July).
Rescuers found the burned-out remains of the helicopter the next day near the Semyachkov Pass, eight miles south of the volcano.
An injury had forced Igor to retire from biathlons last year and become a pilot.
The helicopter, which belonged to his father Vladimir Malinovsky’s private company Vzlyot, had stopped communications due to bad weather, according to local reports.
Governor of Kamchatka Krai Vladimir Solodiv stated that the weather was unfavourable for flights on Saturday, with low clouds.
He added: “The chopper with two passengers on board and a pilot was on a private flight, and the group was not registered as tourists.”
The aircraft was reportedly en route to the village of Milkovo, Igor’s home.
The Russian Biathlon Association paid tribute to the young man, writing in a statement: “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.”
It added: “The whole biathlon family mourns. The Russian Biathlon Union expresses its deepest condolences to Igor’s family and friends.”
Biathlon President Vladimir Drachev said: “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.”
The news has hit Igor’s parents particularly hard, as his older sister reportedly died three years ago.
The authorities have opened a criminal case for violation of air safety rules and causing deaths by negligence.