A helicopter ferrying an injured skier off the slopes crashed Tuesday into a mountainside in central Italy, killing all six people aboard in the latest tragedy to hit a region slammed by recent earthquakes, heavy snowfall and an avalanche, officials said.
Television footage and photographs from the scene showed the helicopter was smashed to pieces in the snow, with only the tail propellers and rear section still intact. Rescue crews brought the bodies down in sleds to waiting vehicles.
Poor visibility had slowed the arrival of rescue crews, and eyewitnesses said heavy clouds blanketed the area at the time of the crash.
An official with the carabinieri forestry police in the regional capital of L'Aquila said all six people were killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
Italy's civil protection agency spokesman Luigi D'Angelo said those on board included the skier, medical personnel and flight crew. The helicopter was taking the injured skier from the Campo Felice ski area to L'Aquila, he added.
The mayor of nearby Lucoli, Gianluca Marrocchi, said he had seen the helicopter and wondered why it was flying so low.
"After that it disappeared in the fog," he told RAI state TV.
The area is in Abruzzo, the same mountainous region where emergency crews have been working around the clock to recover victims of the powerful Jan. 18 avalanche that crushed a hotel.