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Society

After 17 years, Cyprus Remembers Tragedy of Helios Plane Crash

NICOSIA – The sad loss of a Helios Airways flight from Cyprus that crashed in Greece on Aug. 14, 2005, taking the lives of 115 passengers and six crew members en route to Prague was recalled in a ceremony on the island marking it.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said it still haunts people as he spoke at the annual memorial service in Paralimni, which lost 12 residents and four formerly from there, said The Cyprus Mail in a report.

Whole families were wiped out in the crash, he said, and in other instances, children were left orphaned and the crash has left bitterness after findings that it was caused by a cabin pressurizaton selector left in the wrong position, everyone on board incapacitated by  lack of oxygen before it ran out of fuel.

Company officials were tried in Greece but had their sentences cut to no jail time and were let off with paying fines and released and then acquitted in Cyprus on the grounds of double jeopardy, families saying no justice was done.

“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,” no word whether he mentioned no one was really punisyed.

He said that the government at the time had sought to support the families of the victims with 3 million euros ($3.08 million) in compensation and educational scholarships to 11 orphans.

Akrivos Tsolakis, the Greek investigator who looked into the cause, told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) it was a traumatic experience and a “punch to the gut” he can’t forget even now.

“I cannot sleep since then. This event has psychologically affected me. I tried to find a cure but for 17 years I carry this experience with me,” Tsolakis said in a phone interview with CNA.

He was then Chairman of the Greek Aircraft Accidents Inquiry Committee and his report cited the human error that brought down the aircraft and that it bothers him to this day.

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