Shouts of “hero, hero” reverberated in the Ayios Charalambos church in Denia on Wednesday, as family, friends, and colleagues bid a final farewell to firefighter Marios Aristotelous, 44, who died two days ago after his truck plunged into a ravine while battling the flames in the Solea area.
A second, firefighter, Andreas Sophocleous, 49, also from Nicosia, was killed in the same accident. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
Aristotelous’ son, Giorgos, said he was a proud son.
In a speech during the funeral, attended by President Nicos Anastasiades, Giorgos said his father was the man for every job, his family’s and the department’s favourite.
“Marios is gone but he left behind a crowd of proud people,” Giorgos said.
Aristotelous worked at the forestry department since 1992.
For 24 years he offered his services with zeal and love for the work the state entrusted him with, according to the department’s director Takis Tsintides.
Despite not being on duty, Aristotelous volunteered to fight the fire.
“You will remain a bright example of love and self-sacrifice,” Tsintides said. “Even from the place you are now, your example will strengthen us and you will participate in the efforts to protect the forests and the environment.”
In his eulogy, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis promised that the state would be next to Aristotelous’ family.
“Marios was lost while on duty, protecting the land and his compatriots,” the minister said. He was present from the first moment news came of the fire despite being off duty.
“Marios had a heightened sense of duty; up until his last act, when he defied the danger and fought to save our forests.”
“And this is exactly where the enormity of his sacrifice becomes apparent,” the minister said.
Kouyialis expressed his condolences to the family, and thanked his two sons on behalf of the state and society.
“The pain and sorrow for the loss of your father is great. But the pride you must feel for his life and his example must also be great.”