Cyprus Mail

Memorial service held for Helios air crash tragedy

File photo: The tail fin of Helios airlines Boeing 737 at the crash site on August 14, 2005

Relatives of the 121 victims of the 2005 Helios plane crash attended the 14th annual memorial service of the tragedy in Greece on Wednesday at the place in Attica where the plane went down.

The service at the small chapel at Grammatiko, north of Athens, was performed by the Metropolitan of Kifisia, Amarousio and Kyrillos. The ambassador to Greece Kyriakos Kenevezos attended, representing Cyprus.

The new mayor of Marathonas, Stergios Tsirkas, was also present.

After the service the relatives climbed the hill into which the plane crashed.

Wreaths were sent by President Nicos Anastasiades, House President Demetris Syllouris, Disy and Akel.

The Boeing 737-300 – Flight ZU522 – had departed Larnaca airport on the morning of Sunday, August 14, 2005 for Prague travelling via Athens. It crashed at 12.04pm near the village of Grammatiko, around 30 kilometres from Athens international airport, killing all 121 – 115 passengers and six crew – on board.

A long court case followed the crash, both in Greece and in Cyprus.

On February 2, 2013, a Court of Appeals in Athens convicted three of the four defendants in the air disaster. Helios director Demetris Pantazis, flight operations director Andreas Kikkides and chief pilot Ianko Stoimenov were found guilty of manslaughter with conscious negligence.

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 criminal court, was suspended following the Athens ruling. All charges were dismissed and the defendants acquitted.

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