More Helios crash bodies found

Investigators said yesterday they found at least one of three missing bodies from Greece’s worst airplane crash, three days before the first anniversary of the accident. Greek chief accident investigator Akrivos Tsolakis said three sets of human remains were located on Wednesday near the site where a Cypriot Helios Airways airliner crashed on August 14, 2005, killing all 121 people on board. Rescuers had recovered 118 bodies from the site, near the village of Grammatiko, some 40 kilometers northeast of Athens. «We have hopes that at least one or two of these skeletons belong to the three missing persons,» Tsolakis told The Associated Press. He said the remains were found lodged under a wing section of the wreckage, in a gorge outside the 4-hectare main crash site. «Some of them were very badly burned,» Tsolakis said. Chief state coroner Fillippos Koutsaftis said police would ask relatives of the three missing victims – all Cypriot nationals – to provide DNA samples to cross-check with the remains, «but the results will take a very long time, as the remains have deteriorated,» Koutsaftis said. Tsolakis said the process could take up to two months. The chief investigator said he expected to submit his final report on the causes of the crash in early September. «It’s a very delicate affair… we’re working very intensely on this case,» he said. In May, Tsolakis handed Cypriot authorities a draft report on the causes of the accident, but did not make the findings public. The Boeing 737-300, which was en route from Larnaca in Cyprus to Athens, flew on autopilot for over two hours after reaching cruising altitude. Two Greek fighter jets tailed it until it crashed. After a re-enactment in December of the Helios flight from Larnaca to Athens, investigators said the plane apparently had lost cabin pressure, incapacitating the pilots, and eventually ran out of fuel before crashing. A flight attendant wrestled with the controls for at least 10 minutes before the Cypriot airliner crashed, investigators said. (AP)

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