ROME (AP) — Italian rescuers on Saturday located the bodies of seven people, including four Turkish and two Lebanese businessmen, who died when their helicopter crashed in a heavily forested, mountainous area in north-central Italy during a storm, authorities said.
Col. Alfonso Cipriano, who heads an air force rescue coordination unit that led the search since Thursday, said rescuers were tipped off to the crash site after a mountain runner reported seeing what he thought was a part of the mangled chopper during an excursion on Mount Cusna on Saturday morning.
Air crews confirmed the site and ground crews initially located five bodies, and then the other two, Cipriano told The Associated Press. The location was in a hard-to-reach valley and the chopper remains were hidden to air rescuers from the lush tree cover, but some branches were broken and burned, he said.
The helicopter disappeared from radar screens Thursday morning as it flew over the province of Modena in the Tuscan–Emilian Apennines. Electric storms had been reported in the area at the time, Cipriano said. The chopper was carrying seven people, including four Turkish citizens, two Lebanese and the Italian pilot, from Lucca to Treviso to visit a tissue paper production facility.
The two Lebanese were identified in Lebanon as Shadi Kreidi and Tarek Tayah, both executives at INDEVCO, an international manufacturing and industrial consultancy group. The two were said to be on a business trip.
Tayah’s wife, Hala, was killed two years ago in the massive explosion at Beirut’s port, which took the lives of more than 215 people and injured thousands. Their daughter, Tamara, who was 11 at the time, was one of the few victims who met French President Emmanuel Macron when he flew to Beirut following the blast, gifting him a pin shaped like the map of Lebanon made by her mother, a jeweler, and getting an emotional hug in return.
Tarek and Hala Tayeh had two other children besides Tamara.
The Turks on board worked for Turkish industrial group Eczacibasi, which said they were taking part in a trade fair.
Eczacibasi confirmed in a statement with “great pain and sadness” that its director of factories, director of hygienic papers at its Yalova province factory, director of investment projects and production director at its Manisa province factory had died in the crash and relayed their condolences.
The crash site was about 10 kilometers (six miles) from where rescuers initially began searching based on the last cellular pings from the passengers’ phones. Cipriano said it might have taken hours more or even days to locate the site had it not been for the runner’s tip, given the difficult, lush terrain.
Zeina Karam in Beirut, and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, contributed to this report.