By Andria Kades
Memorial services for the 121 Helios victims on the 10th anniversary of the crash were held on Friday in Larnaca and in Greece where the plane went down.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts we are going to the tragic scene at Grammatiko, to remember our dead,” members of the victim’s relatives committee told the Cyprus News Agency.
Relatives also went to the Ayia Paraskevi church in Mosfiloti, Larnaca.
The memorial in Greece was just north of Athens at a small chapel built at Grammatiko where the plane went down. Kifisia Bishop Kyrillos, Mesogeas and Laureotikes Bishop Nicolaos as well as ambassador of Cyprus to Greece Kyriakos Kenevezos attended the memorial.
The Boeing 737-300 – Flight ZU522 – had departed Larnaca airport on the morning of Sunday, August 14, for Prague travelling via Athens. It crashed at 12.03pm near the village of Grammatiko, around 30 kilometres from Athens international airport, killing all 121 – 115 passengers and six crew – on board.
On February 2, 2013, a Court of Appeals in Athens convicted three of the four defendants in the air disaster and sentenced them to 122 years imprisonment each. Helios Director Demetris Pantazis, Flight Operations Director Andreas Kikkides and Chief Pilot Ianko Stoimenov were found guilty of manslaughter with conscious negligence, a misdemeanour.
Chief engineer Alan Irwin, the fourth defendant, who had checked the aircraft before the doomed flight, was found not guilty.
The Athens court found the three executives guilty of allowing the Boeing 737-300 to take off with an unfit replacement crew. The engineer was found guilty of failing to reset a pressure valve, causing both crew and passengers to pass out from lack of oxygen. The plane flew for hours on automatic pilot before running out of fuel and crashing into the hillside near Athens. The three executives were given the option to buy out their ten-year sentence which they did, paying €73,000 each.
In Cyprus, the case, which was brought before the Nicosia Assize Court, was suspended following the Athens ruling. All charges were dismissed and the defendants acquitted.
Since then 33 children orphaned by the crash and who were awarded millions in compensation had about half of the money shaved off during the 2013 banking haircut. Families have been appealing to have it returned on humanitarian grounds but have had no answer. Most relatives are cynical and have little hope that the government will heed their request.