By CARLA SALAZAR, Associated Press
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Snow and fog impeded efforts Thursday to locate a helicopter that went missing in Peru's highlands with 14 people aboard, including eight South Koreans and three Europeans. Authorities said the aircraft's emergency beacon indicated it was on rugged terrain.
The last communication with the helicopter owned by Cuzco-based Helicusco was late Wednesday afternoon as it headed for Cuzco from the town of Mazuco in neighboring Madre de Dios state, said police Gen. Hector Dulanto.
The helicopter was carrying eight South Koreans, a Swede, a Czech, a Dutchman and three Peruvians, two of them crew members, he said.
Police earlier said the aircraft's passengers were 11 South Koreans, two Austrians and a Peruvian.
The chopper was flying near Huallahualla, a town located at about 13,200 feet (4,000 meters) when communications were lost, said Dulanto, who was in charge of rescue operations.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the helicopter's distress beacon indicated it was near a peak called Apu Colque Cruz in Cusco's Quispicanchi province.
Dulanto said snowfall had prevented an overflight of the area but that a chopper provided by Helicusco had dropped a police patrol and a high mountain rescue team in the area to begin a search.
"It wasn't possible to locate the helicopter either by air or ground," he told The Associated Press. "The area has snow, 30 centimeters or more, which makes walking difficult. In addition, the fog is not allowing air patrols."
Helicuso did not identify the type of aircraft that was missing. It's website says it operates one craft capable of such a passenger load: A Sikorsky S-58ET.
An official at the Korean Embassy in Lima said those aboard were not tourists, but were involved in commercial operations.
The official, Kristel Velez, said no more information was immediately available but that two embassy officials had traveled to Cuzco.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.