One dead, 2 hurt in Bulgarian naval helicopter crash

A Bulgarian naval helicopter crashed into the Black Sea during an exercise Friday, killing the commander and injuring two crew members, the nation’s Defense Ministry said.

Capt. Georgi Atanassov died from his injuries after the crash near Bulgaria’s coast, and Pavel Simeonov and Anatoli Apostolov, were in a Varna military hospital in stable condition, the government said.

Airbus built the AS 565MB Panther, which is used for a variety of military roles. It can carry up to 10 fully armed soldiers and two pilots. The model’s first flight was in 1984.

The AS 565MB Panther helicopter was involved in a task to carry out “artillery fire at surface targets” when it crashed, the ministry said.

The Bulgarian Navy’s Druzki frigate and a diving team were dispatched to the crash site.

NATO allies from Europe and the United States have been conducting large-scale joint military exercises in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.

Three of the Panther helicopters were delivered to Bulgaria in October 2011.