An independent search operation organized by the relatives of the eight Amurskaya sailors missing since late October has produced its first find — three life jackets and a fragment of a life raft.
Natalya Salkina, an official spokeswoman of the Investigative Committee in the Far East, said "the emergency equipment reported to have been found by the relatives near the freighter's wreckage site will be recovered and inspected," Interfax reported Wednesday.
The Amurskaya was carrying a cargo of 700 tons of gold ore — a cargo investigators said was too heavy for the freighter — when it sank off Russia's far eastern seaboard in the Sea of Okhotsk on Oct. 28.
Police arrested the owner of the Amurskaya in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on suspicion of negligence leading to multiple deaths. The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
The body of one crew member was recovered from the wreckage on Nov. 9.
After a month of extensive searches for the remaining eight crew members, the Emergency Situations Ministry decided to abandon its operation, but the families of the missing sailors organized an independent search using donations raised by their online Vkontakte group called "Amurskaya — Tragedy and Hope."