Moscow on Saturday said 18 people died when a helicopter crashed on its way to an oil station in northern Siberia in the early hours of the morning. The Russian Transport Ministry said the Mi-8 helicopter carrying three crew members and 15 passengers crashed when it collided with machinery carried by another helicopter soon after take-off. It said the second helicopter landed safely and the accident took place in “normal” weather. “The first take-off was carried out by an Mi-8 with an external cargo suspension without passengers on board, the second take-off was performed with passengers who were workers on shifts at the oil station,” the ministry said. “According to preliminary information, the Mi-8 carrying passengers for reasons unknown collided with the external suspension of the second helicopter after take-off. As a result it fell, was destroyed and burned. Three crew members and 15 passengers died.” The helicopter was operated by Russian national airline Utair, which has its head office in Khanty Mansiysk airport in western Siberia. Utair said the crash took place at 5.43am Moscow time after taking off from a helipad at the Vankor oil and gas field, in the Turuhansk district of the Krasnoyarsk region. The oilfield is operated by Russian national oil company Rosneft through its subsidiary Vankorneft. Utair said the helicopter was made in Russia in 2010. It said the pilot was born in 1985 and was trained at the Omsk Aviation School in southwestern Siberia. “He flew 5,990 hours, 2,300 of which he was the helicopter commander,” Utair said. The airline said it sent its specialists to the site of the crash. Russia’s transport ministry said it created a commission to investigate the crash and the vice-director of the Federal Air Transport Agency was on his way to the site. The country’s Investigative Committee said it opened a criminal investigation into the crash.