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Helios tragedy ‘continues to haunt’ Cyprus, Hadjipantela says during memorial

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

The tragedy of the Helios plane crash on August 14, 2005, in which 115 passengers and six crew members lost their lives, continues to haunt both the relatives of the victims and Cypriot society as a whole, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said on Sunday.

Hadjipantela was representing the government at the annual memorial service in Paralimni, which lost 12 permanent residents and four others originally from Paralimni and residing in Limassol.
Whole families were wiped out in the crash, he said, and in other instances, children were left orphaned.

Helios Airways flight 522 had left Cyprus for Prague on the morning of August 14, 2005. It crashed into a mountain at Grammatiko north of Athens at 12.05pm after running out of fuel. Air traffic control had lost contact with the flight for more than an hour. Relatives say justice was never done as those indicted were never punished.

Having been tried in Greece, the companies officials were sentenced to 122 years in prison each but this was changed to a ten-year sentence and subsequently to a fine. After paying approximately €73,000 they were released. They were acquitted in Cyprus during a subsequent trial on the grounds of double jeopardy.

“Despite the fact that 17 years have passed, the pain, the bitterness and the anger for the unjust loss of so many people continues to torment the relatives and friends of the victims as well as the entire Cypriot society,” Hadjipantela said.

“This tragic this event, which also shocked the whole of Greece, became a cause and an occasion to highlight timeless problems, inadequacies, unjustified mistakes and omissions, which resulted in that fatal flight.”

The minister said the government at the time had sought to support the families of the victims with three million euros in compensation and educational scholarships to 11 orphans.

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