NEWS

Army chief pays for fatal accidents

The chief of the army’s staff resigned yesterday following Wednesday’s freak training accident in which a tank careered out of control into a group of young army officers at a camp near Ioannina, killing two and injuring another two. It was the third fatal accident in the armed forces – and the second in the army – in just under a month, bringing up the death toll to eight. Ahead of his stormy meeting with the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Panayiotis Harvalas, Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos had made no effort to conceal his anger over the embarrassing string of fatalities. «Such accidents in a modern, properly organized and well-trained army are inconceivable and unacceptable,» he told journalists on the sidelines of the Economist Intelligence Unit conference in Kavouri, southern Athens. Later in the day, the minister summoned Harvalas to his office, and soon afterward the army chief tendered his resignation. The Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense will convene on Monday to choose his successor. PASOK, the main opposition party, issued a statement backing Harvalas and effectively blaming the government for the three accidents. «The ministry must provide quick and apposite explanations, and not resort to acts intended to cause an impression, and to smearing specific people,» the statement said. The two lieutenants who died under the 13.5-ton BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, Pantelis Psychountakis, 23, and Christos Pelitaris, 24, will be buried today. An air force engineer was killed in a maintenance operation at Tanagra airport on Wednesday, while five conscripts were electrocuted on April 8 at an Evros border outpost.