The 27-year-old special forces contract soldier who was injured as part of a military training exercise on Tuesday remained in critical condition at a Nicosia general hospital ICU.
Authorities are investigating the circumstances under which the soldier was critically injured during a scheduled special forces training exercise in Paphos on Monday. He remains hospitalised and is intubated, currently in a medically induced coma. He is suffering from brain swelling and spine fractures after the accident.
Defence ministry spokesman Christos Pieri told local media that the soldier was one of the most experienced and qualified, having served as a contract member of the army for six years – “It was not his first time, he had carried out such training and exercises before”.
Pieri explained that the man jumped from the helicopter, at a height of about eight metres, as part of a scheduled exercise, landing in the sea in Lara area of Akamas.
The soldier was rescued by a boat according to the scenario of the exercise, Pieri added, but was then found to be unconscious.
Asked on Tuesday what went wrong, Pieri said that from the injuries sustained it appears that the fall into the water did not happen correctly – going in legs first – which is how the back and perhaps the head were hit. Such training exercises are routine, Pieri added, saying that they are carried out each month.
But Pieri emphasised that: “This is what will be investigated, at the moment we don’t know exactly what went wrong, the initial indication is that the guidelines which were in place were adhered to.”
The national guard announced later Tuesday that an investigation has been opened and is being led by brigadier Solomos Solomou, deputy commander of operational HQ. Pieris explained that Solomou has extensive experience in field exercises and training and is former commander of the special forces.
The defence ministry official further stated that the doctor monitoring the soldier’s case issued a morning review of the patient’s health status, explaining that it remains very serious.
The young man was taken to the accidents and emergency department at Paphos general. Due to the seriousness of his condition, he was later transferred to Nicosia general hospital.
It was stated that no one on board the helicopter has so far reported anything untoward in the buildup to the incident.
The accident comes about a month after a female contract solder died following a road accident during national guard duty in Nicosia.
Main opposition party Akel on Tuesday called for answers to be given about the circumstances under which the accident took place. It said that as two people had died in the National Guard in the last 18 months, concerns are raised about the security measures being taken.
The party is set to table to issue for discussion at the House defence committee. “The lives and safety of the men and women serving in the National Guard must be non-negotiable,” the party said.