Robot raises body parts from ’copter

The unmanned submarine which located the army helicopter that crashed into the northern Aegean last Saturday, killing all 17 people on board, yesterday raised human remains from the wreckage, at a depth of 866 meters. The remote-operated vehicle (ROV), controlled from the oceanographic research vessel Aegaio some 8 miles southwest of Mount Athos, also brought up personal effects belonging to the twin-rotor Chinook’s passengers – a delegation of senior clerics led by Petros, Patriarch of Alexandria and leader of the Orthodox Church in Africa, which was headed for the monastic community. The aircraft was carrying a crew of five. A statement from the Development Ministry, which is responsible for the Aegaio, did not specify how many bodies the remains belonged to. Nine corpses were recovered from the sea in the first 24 hours after the crash, while on Thursday the ROV located two more bodies in the battered fuselage. It is unclear whether the wreck can be salvaged. The ministry said the operation to locate the helicopter – which took just two days – and raise the human remains was «one of the toughest ever on a global level. «Body parts were located and raised from a depth that is almost prohibitive for such operations in under 60 hours,» the ministry added. Video footage of the wreckage, taken by the ROV, has been turned over to a military prosecutor investigating the causes of the crash. Further investigations are under way into why it took military officials over an hour and a half to establish that the helicopter was missing, and nearly another two hours to brief Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos. The search and rescue operation started at 1.45 p. m., while the aircraft is believed to have crashed at 10.56 a. m. According to transcripts of communications between civil aviation and military officials published in yesterday’s Eleftheros Typos daily, air force radar operators on Mount Hortiatis, near Thessaloniki, claimed that the helicopter had landed safely. The government has rejected a Communist call for Parliament to investigate the crash.

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