A single agency for helicopters

The country’s three remaining ambulance helicopters were grounded yesterday, following Tuesday’s crash in which an Agusta A109 and its four-man crew were lost off Icaria. National First Aid Center (EKAB) employees staged a 24-hour strike yesterday and have refused to fly on the helicopters as long as they are operated by Helitalia, an Italian company. The government yesterday decided that the Defense Ministry will form a single agency to operate all aircraft belonging to the ministries of Health, Public Order, Transport and Merchant Marine. EKAB employees decided to continue medical airlift operations with military aircraft but only as long as flights conformed to civil aviation rules and not military rules. At a Cabinet meeting, PM Costas Simitis expressed sorrow at the deaths of the Agusta’s crew, in the third such accident in two years. «Three accidents are too many and we have a duty to ensure the greatest possible safety for these people. We must limit the room for human error and strict preventive measures must be taken,» Simitis said. The Agusta’s crewmen have still not been found.