Helios crash trial in September

Four people and defunct Cyprus budget carrier Helios Airways will go on trial in September over the island’s worst air crash, which killed all 121 people on board in 2005, a Nicosia court said yesterday. Helios Airways and four officials face a total of 1,190 counts of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in what promises to be one of the most complex and high-profile cases in Cypriot legal history. The five accused are Helios Chief Executive Andreas Drakos, Managing Director Dimitris Pantazis, Operations Manager George Kikides, Chief Pilot Ianko Stoimenov and Helios Airways itself as a legal entity. They appeared before a Nicosia district court yesterday where their case was committed to trial on September 17 when they will be asked to enter a plea, defense lawyers said. State prosecutors are charging them with manslaughter and causing death by a reckless act on the grounds that they hired «unsuitable and inadequate» pilots. The accused are being held responsible for the death of 119 of those on board – excluding the two pilots who are deemed partly to blame for the crash, which was the deadliest aviation disaster for both Greece and Cyprus. «We want to see justice done in the courtroom and the court to deliver the justice we’ve been waiting for these past four years,» the leader of the Helios relatives group, Nicolas Yiasoumis, told reporters. Families of the dead have long called for criminal action against those deemed responsible for the Helios Airways Boeing 737-300 being starved of oxygen and then slamming into a hillside outside Athens in August 2005. The plane ran out of fuel after flying on autopilot for several hours. In October 2006, a Greek commission of inquiry said the Helios pilots had failed to recognize early warnings of a drop in cabin pressure and had neglected to switch pressurization from manual to automatic in pre-flight checks. Helios has strongly denied that it cut corners in air safety, saying all its pilots were fit to fly and subject to the appropriate checks. (AFP)