Defence Minister vows no ‘cover up’ in army death

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Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said that anyone found responsible for the National Guard helicopter accident that led to the death of a 27-year-old commando would be held accountable.

Petrides urged the public to allow time for an investigation to be carried out and suggested he would resign if necessary.

“I understand everyone’s desire to see justice and for nothing like that to happen again, and I wish the same”.

The minister’s comments on Thursday came as media reports suggested the fall occurred when the helicopter was hovering at 20 metres above sea level when it should have been at eight metres.

“Investigators must establish from what altitude the 27-year-old fell and whether the helicopter flight was conducted in accordance with the prescribed regulations,” Petrides said.

The minister confirmed that a film crew granted a license to shoot the exercise will be providing investigating authorities with footage.

A National Guard and a police investigation are ongoing, with Petrides noting that results should be expected soon.

He said nobody would be “let off at a discount”.

Asked whether he was thinking of resigning over the recent deaths, Petrides said: “In my life, I have learned to be clear and deal with any situation responsibly”.

He added that he is always at President Nicos Anastasiades’ disposal, whom he informed about the recent accident.

The fatal accident was the third to take place in just over a year, triggering questions about whether the army is fit for purpose.

On Monday, a non-commissioned officer, Panayiotis Yiannios, was injured after jumping from a helicopter during a military search and rescue exercise near Lara Bay in Paphos.

The officer was treated for multiple spine fractures and brain swelling at Nicosia General’s Intensive Care Unit, where he succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday.

He was injured after jumping out of a helicopter into the sea as part of the exercise taking place off Paphos.

Criminal investigations into the deaths of two army officers by the police have been concluded with findings to be handed to the Legal Services to decide whether criminal responsibility burdens the National Guard.