NEWS

Underwater video to aid investigation

As a government official indicated yesterday that it might prove impossible to salvage the army helicopter which crashed into the northern Aegean on Saturday with 17 people on board, a prosecutor started scanning footage of the wreckage for clues as to the causes of the accident. The 2.5-hour video recording of the twin-rotor Chinook’s battered fuselage – which was located on Wednesday 866 meters deep, 8 miles southwest of Mount Athos – was made by a remote-operated submarine controlled from the Aegaio oceanographic research ship. The footage reportedly showed two bodies still trapped in the wreckage. The transport helicopter crashed while carrying Petros, Patriarch of Alexandria and head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Africa, and his close aides on a visit to the Mount Athos monastic community. The Chinook had a crew of five. Nine bodies have been recovered. Yesterday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos intimated for the first time since the crash that the wreckage might not be raised. «Recovery from such a depth is difficult to unfeasible,» he said. «I cannot give a clear answer as to what will happen now. All options are being examined.» Experts on the Aegaio, which found the wreckage just one day after arriving in the area of the crash, said the morphology of the seabed had hampered the search. «This is the toughest part of the Aegean,» mission head Giorgos Chronis said. A Thessaloniki military prosecutor is investigating the causes of the accident, while an Athens prosecutor is looking into reports that the aircraft presented operational problems from its delivery day in December 2001. Yesterday, Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos ordered an internal investigation, headed by the deputy navy chief of staff, into why military officials took over an hour and a half to establish that the helicopter was missing, and nearly two more hours to brief him. The Communist Party yesterday called for a Parliamentary investigation into the crash.