Greek authorities say a coast guard officer credited with saving thousands of lives off the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos at the height of Europes migration crisis has died at age 44.
The coast guard said in a statement that Lt. Kyriakos Papadopoulos suffered a fatal heart attack early Wednesday.
Papadopoulos became a local hero while commanding a patrol boat that, according to the coast guard, rescued more than 5,000 migrants who ran into trouble while attempting the dangerous water crossing from nearby Turkey.
Most of the rescues took part under hectic conditions in 2015, when about a million people made the journey in flimsy craft provided by smuggling gangs, the majority reaching Lesbos. Many drowned on the way.
Merchant Marine Minister Fotis Kouvelis praised Papadopoulos, a Lesvos native, for his humanitarian values. [AP]