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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-08-14

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cypriot airliner crashes northeast of Athens, few hopes of survivors
  • [02] Black box found in Greek air crash, all aboard feared dead
  • [03] Gov't: No evidence of terrorism or foul play in Greek air crash

  • [01] Cypriot airliner crashes northeast of Athens, few hopes of survivors

    A Cypriot airliner crashed northeast of Athens on Sunday carrying 115 passengers including 48 children and a six-member crew. Hopes of survivors were slim, authorities said.

    The Boeing 737 operated by Cyprus-based Helios Airways fell shortly after noon in an unhabited area northeast of the capital a few minutes before its scheduled landing time on a flight from Larnaca to Prague via Athens.

    Crew notified Cypriot authorities of a fault in the aircraft's air conditioning unit on approaching Greek airspace, but made no contact with Greek air traffic controllers on entry, according to sources.

    Greek civil aviation authorities alerted the air force in line with anti-terrorism measures.

    Two F-16 fighter jets sent from a military base in Crete located the aircraft a few minutes later in the southern Aegean, but calls for identification went unheeded and the plane appeared to be out of control, the sources said.

    Flying at close quarters, air force officers reported that the aircraft's co-pilot appeared to have collapsed over his controls but no captain was visible through the cockpit window. Overhead oxygen masks in the cabin section had dropped into place.

    After reporting the aircraft as "renegade", or unidentified, the pilots tracked the airliner at about 38,000 feet until it began to lose height and crashed in Grammatikos, a hilly area near Athens international airport, sparking a blaze.

    Firefighters and rescue workers sped to the wreckage as military helicopters patrolled overhead.

    Charred bodies were scattered amid the broken parts of the plane spread over a wide radius, emergency teams said.

    In Cyprus, the managing director of Helios Airways, Dimitris Pantazis, declined to say whether the aircraft had shown technical problems in the past, but said that experts from the Boeing corporation, which manufactured the plane, would travel to Athens to help with enquiries.

    The flight's passenger list would be given to police, Pantazis added.

    Headquartered in Larnaca, Helios was founded in 1999 as the island republic's first private carrier. The company was acquired in 2004 by the Libra Group, a UK tour operator.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who cut short a long holiday weekend on the island of Tinos, has maintained close contact with the defence minister and other authorites involved in the aftermath.

    Karamanlis, who called a mini-cabinet meeting for 16:00 hours local time, conferred by telephone with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, who welcomed the response by Greek emergency services.

    "The most likely thing is that a technical fault was involved, but we are looking into all possible causes and details. It would not be responsible to say anything yet about the cause of the descent," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos told reporters.

    Media reported that passengers aboard the flight had sent text messages to relatives complaining of an "Artic chill" in the cabin with people starting to turn blue from the cold.

    In Nicosia, the president's spokesman, Marios Karogian said that terrorism had been ruled out in the incident on the basis of information received from Athens.

    Nicosia has sent a crisis management team to its embassy in Athens.

    Also returning to Athens were the leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, George Papandreou; and the head of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Alekos Alavanos.

    [02] Black box found in Greek air crash, all aboard feared dead

    Authorities have found the flight recorder of a Cypriot airliner that crashed into a hillside near Athens on Sunday, apparently killing all 121 people aboard, including 48 children, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos told reporters.

    Speaking after a lengthy cabinet meeting, Roussopoulos said a full enquiry into the cause of the crash was underway.

    The Boeing 737 operated by Cyprus-based Helios Airways fell shortly after noon in an uninhabited area northeast of the capital a few minutes before its scheduled landing time on a flight from Larnaca to Prague via Athens.

    Rescue workers have few hopes of finding survivors after the aircraft plummeted into dry scrubland, sparking a forest fire.

    [03] Gov't: No evidence of terrorism or foul play in Greek air crash

    The government said on Sunday that no evidence had emerged of terrorism or foul play after a Cypriot airliner crashed near Athens, apparently killing all 121 people aboard.

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos also flatly rejected media speculation that two air force fighter jets, which were sent to track the aircraft after its crew failed to communicate with air traffic control, had been ordered to shoot down the plane on fears of terrorism. "There was no such thought."

    Authorities had classed the aircraft as "renegade", a term to describe an unidentified aircraft that is out of control and may pose a hazard to inhabited areas, when its crew also failed to respond to commands from the fighter pilots.

    Flying at close range near Athens, the pilots had seen the co-pilot slumped over his controls and so sign of the captain, Roussopoulos reported after a lengthy cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister.

    Shortly before the plane crashed, two people were viewed in the cockpit apparently trying to regain control of the aircraft, but it was unclear whether they were other crew members or passengers, he said.

    The first of two flight recorders had been found, and a full enquiry into the cause of the crash was underway, the spokesman noted.

    The Boeing 737 operated by Cyprus-based Helios Airways fell shortly after noon in an uninhabited area northeast of the capital a few minutes before its scheduled landing time on a flight from Larnaca to Prague via Athens.

    Helios had been asked to provide a detailed history of the aircraft's performance after reports that it had shown faulty operation in the past, the spokesman added.

    Rescue workers have few hopes of finding survivors after the aircraft plummeted into dry scrubland, sparking a forest fire.


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