Firefighting plane crashes, pilot dead

A veteran air force pilot was killed yesterday when his light firefighting plane crashed during an attempt to put out a blaze on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos. The Polish-made PZL Dromader hit a tree while flying low in the area of Vassilika, some 20 kilometers west of the island capital of Mytilene, heading toward a small fire that had broken out in a pine forest. Rescue teams found the charred body of the pilot – whom initial reports identified as Lieutenant-Colonel Stefanos Kourelias, 42 – among the wreckage of the single-seater. Kourelias, a father of two, had recently retired from the air force but had been recalled for forest fire patrol duty, flying from Mytilene airport. Meanwhile, two firefighting planes and a couple of helicopters were helping firemen fight a large forest blaze yesterday in the hills to the west of Xanthi, in Thrace.