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Responsibilities, where they’re found, will be attributed in soldier’s death, minister says  

Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides

The defence ministry pledged on Thursday that if anyone were found responsible for the National Guard accident that led to the fatal injury of a 27-year-old commando, they would be held accountable.

“I understand everyone’s desire to see justice and for nothing like that to happen again, and I wish the same,” Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said, as he called on people to allow time for the investigations into the contract soldier’s death.

Petrides added there would be accountability for anyone found responsible for the helicopter accident.

“As the defence minister, I assure you there will be no glossing over,” he said during a press briefing.

Panayiotis Yiannios died on Wednesday following an injury after he jumped from a helicopter into the sea in the Lara area of Akamas as part of a scheduled military exercise on Monday.

An investigation was launched on Tuesday. It is led by Brigadier-General Solomos Solomou, deputy commander of the Operations HQ. Solomou formerly served as head of the Commandos Division.

On Thursday new information emerged regarding the details of the accident, with reports suggesting the young man’s fall occurred when the helicopter was hovering at 20 metres above sea level, when it should have been at eight metres.

Investigators must establish from what altitude the 27-year-old fell and whether the helicopter flight was conducted in accordance with the prescribed regulations, Petrides said.

He also confirmed that a crew had been granted a licence to film the exercise, so there was footage of the fatal accident.

There are “enough data” so far, and investigations from the national guard and police continue at a rapid pace, Petrides said.

Meanwhile the findings from the investigation of another National Guard accident that resulted in the death of 27-year-old contract soldier Natalie Neophytou in May in Nicosia, have not yet been published.

Noting that the National Guard has 12,000 members, the defence minister said each accident must be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

Also expected are the results of the investigation into the death of commander Xanthos Kyriakou who died during a military exercise in Trooditissa in May last year.

Asked whether he planned to resign following the three accidents in just over a year, Petrides replied negatively and added: “In my life, I have learned to be clear and deal with any situation responsibly. I have not tendered my resignation, but as always I serve at the pleasure of the president.”

He and President Nicos Anastasiades have spoken on the phone about the accident.

Yiannios, who was said to have extensive experience having served as a contract member of the army for six years, was critically injured after the fall during the helicopter exercise on Monday.

The soldier was rescued by a boat according to the scenario of the exercise but was then found to be unconscious.  He was taken to the accidents and emergency department at Paphos general. Due to the seriousness of his condition, he was intubated and transferred to Nicosia general hospital.

He was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering brain swelling and spinal fractures.

Yiannios died on Wednesday afternoon in the Nicosia general hospital ICU.

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