Helicopter failure, pilot error seen in crash

Helicopter failure, pilot error seen in crash

A Hellenic Navy helicopter crash in which three people were killed early Thursday was likely caused by mechanical failure or pilot error, military authorities believe.

A panel of experts was assembled to investigate the crash, which occurred at 2.45 a.m. Thursday on the Aegean islet of Kinaros, but weather conditions in the area were not considered to have contributed to the accident.

The Agusta Bell 212 helicopter crashed into a hillside on the northeastern part of Kinaros, which has just one inhabitant and is located between Leros and Amorgos. On board were captain Anastasios Toulitsis (36), co-pilot Constantinos Pananas (34) and radar operator Eleftherios Evangelou (35). Only Toulitsis’s body had not been recovered by late Thursday.

The helicopter had taken off from the Nikiforos Fokas frigate earlier as part of the Astrapi (Lightning) 2/16 nighttime exercises. The wind speed at the time of the crash was between 5 and 6 Beaufort, military authorities said.

“Today is a day of mourning for the Greek people, the nation and the country’s armed forces,” said Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who was attending a NATO summit in Brussels.

“Greek officers, in peacetime, have entered the pantheon of heroes while doing their duty, while abiding by the oath they took when they entered the armed forces. They fell while keeping us all safe. We are devastated.”

The site of the crash was not discovered until 7 a.m. Thursday after both Greek and Turkish forces took part in the search for the fallen helicopter.

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