NEWS

Two pilots die battling fire on Evia

Two pilots of a firefighting plane were killed yesterday when their aircraft crashed after dropping water on a wildfire on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, taking to seven the number of people killed while battling thousands of blazes across Greece this summer. Flight Lieutenant Dimitris Stoilidis, 34, and Flying Officer Yiannis Hatzoudis, 27, were killed when their airplane came down in the area of Styra, southern Evia. Stoilidis was a married father of two twin boys. Hatzoudis was single. Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said the two men were «heroes.» «Their unselfish enthusiasm and self-sacrifice has led them to immortality,» he said. Witnesses reported seeing the yellow Canadair CL 415 «water bomber» swoop over the fire near the village of Dileso and then fail to climb quickly enough to avoid crashing into the mountainside. «Our thoughts are with all those people who, for the last few weeks, have been battling hundreds of fires throughout Greece,» said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis while on an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. «I am sure I convey the feelings of all Greeks when I say a big thank you to them for all they are risking and sacrificing to protect the wealth of our forests.» The crews of firefighting planes have been stretched this summer due to the large number of forest fires. A pilot who spoke to Kathimerini just hours before yesterday’s crash said that he flew nine firefighting missions between June and July last year whereas he has flown 75 during the same period this year. The fire that broke out in Styra at around noon yesterday was still raging last night. It is thought that a number of homes in Dileso have been burned despite the efforts of residents and firefighters. The fire service also had to battle dozens of other wildfires yesterday, including one near the village of Hiliomodi, near Corinth, where a blaze destroyed several homes last week. There was also a smaller brush fire near the Sismanoglio Hospital in Vrilissia, northeastern Athens, but no damage was reported.