Five face trial for Helios air crash

Cyprus’s attorney general said yesterday that criminal charges would be brought against five people in connection with a Cypriot airliner crash near Athens three years ago that killed 121 people. The prosecutor, Petros Clerides, did not identify the five defendants but noted that the charges being drafted were «among the most serious» in the Cypriot criminal code. The relatives of those killed in the Helios Airways plane crash on August 14, 2005, expressed their disappointment that the names of those implicated in the deaths of their relatives had not been released. «We are one step ahead of where we were yesterday,» said Nikolas Giasoumis, a spokesperson for a group representing the victims. «Our aim is not for the five (suspects) to be tried in front of a people’s court for the eyes of the public but for justice to be done,» Giasoumis added. Yesterday’s ruling followed three years of police investigation into the accident. Relatives of the crash victims have filed 23 lawsuits against Cypriot authorities, accusing civil aviation authorities of negligence and foot-dragging. The Helios Airways aircraft had been cruising on autopilot in Greek air space for two hours, with most passengers on board unconscious, before it ran out of fuel and crashed into a hillside in Grammatiko, on the outskirts of Athens. An inquiry by Greek authorities published in October 2006 blamed the crash on a preflight inspection that failed to spot that a gauge regulating oxygen to the aircraft was on the wrong setting and on the pilots’ failure to notice that the aircraft was running out of oxygen.