NEWS

Military to raise fatal helicopter

Top Defense and Development ministry officials yesterday gave the go-ahead for a costly, arduous operation to raise from a deep part of the Aegean an army helicopter that crashed on September 11, killing all 17 people on board. The twin-rotor Chinook transport lies at a depth of 866 meters, eight miles southwest of Mount Athos, where it was carrying a senior Church delegation led by Petros, Patriarch of Alexandria and head of the Orthodox Church in Africa. The wreckage should provide clues on the cause of the crash, which is being treated as an accident. «It was decided, in principle, to salvage the helicopter’s broken parts,» a statement by the navy general staff said yesterday. «A special committee has been set up to examine all parameters and then propose the means, and undertake the execution and supervision of the whole operation in as short a time as possible.» The meeting was attended by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, the head of the navy general staff, the secretary-general of the Development Ministry – under whose jurisdiction the Aegaio oceanographic research vessel that located the Chinook comes – and other officials. The announcement gave no cost estimate or time framework for the salvage operation, which will be coordinated by the navy. It noted, however, that the helicopter would be raised by the Development Ministry’s Hellenic Marine Research Center, the air force and the navy. «It is quite a difficult operation, technically,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. Sources say Greece will probably buy the necessary equipment to raise the helicopter, as renting it would prove too expensive. Late on Sunday, a remote-operated submarine controlled from the Aegaio located and raised human body parts from the wreckage, the Development Ministry said yesterday. Nine complete corpses have been found so far, as well as several body parts. Meanwhile, a search-and-rescue operation for a missing helicopter off the southern Peloponnese yesterday proved to be a false alarm as flight control officials misinterpreted maneuvers by a helicopter taking part in a naval exercise.