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Cyprus marks 11 years since Helios disaster

Paralimni cemetery where many of the victims are buried

A memorial service was held in Paralimni on Sunday, marking 11 years since the Helios air disaster, which claimed the lives of 121 people – passengers and crew.

On August 14 2005, the Helios Boeing 737-300, en route from Larnaca to Prague via Athens, crashed into a mountain, near Grammatiko, north of Athens, and claimed the lives of all 121 people on board, most of them Cypriots going on holiday.

Addressing the service Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou assured that the government and society as a whole stood by the families and the children orphaned by the disaster.

“The government, bound by the duty of the state and society, stands by the families and the orphans the air crash tragedy of Grammatiko left behind,” he said.

Around 70 people travelled to Athens this weekend to attend a service at the site of the crash in Grammatiko where a small church has been built.

On February 2, 2013, a Court of Appeals in Athens convicted three of the four defendants in the Helios air disaster of 2005. 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 a hill near Athens.

The three executives were given the option to buy their ten year old sentence which they did, paying €73,000 each.

In Cyprus, the case, which was before the Nicosia Assize Court, was suspended following the Athens ruling. All charges were dismissed and the defendants acquitted.

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