Mistakes led to commando’s death

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A series of mistakes led to the freak accident that cost 27-year commando Panayiotis Yiannios his life, after falling to his death from a helicopter during a National Guard exercise, according to a leaked probe.

According to a Phileleftheros daily, police officers probing the fatal accident last week found evidence indicating serious procedural errors during the military exercise.

Phileleftheros quotes sources saying the helicopter carrying Yiannios was flying too high at approximately 20 metres and too fast at 50 knots.

Drops are usually made from a height between 3 and 8 metres, while the helicopter should be travelling at a maximum speed of 10 knots.

It was established that at the time the non-commissioned officer fell into the sea, the helicopter was on an upward course and making a turn.

Also, the doors of the chopper were open during the fatal flight.

Questions are being raised as to whether the 27-year-old commando had jumped or fell out of the chopper, which was flying too high, too fast and with its doors open.

It is also claimed the helicopter did follow procedures by not carrying out a recognition flight before proceeding to the drop site.

There were eight military personnel in the helicopter: two crewmen, a crew chief, an officer responsible for drops and four soldiers.

The incident was captured on film by a filming crew as the exercise was part of a TV ad for the National Guard. The video footage is expected to be crucial for completing the police probe.

Experts will also evaluate the chopper’s flight data.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told Phileleftheros that investigations into the commando’s death are carried out by a special task force with officers also talking to eyewitnesses in the area.

Yiannios was injured after jumping from a helicopter during a military search and rescue exercise near Lara Bay in Paphos on 27 June. He succumbed to his injuries two days later.

After the incident, the officer was treated for multiple spine fractures and brain swelling at Nicosia General’s Intensive Care Unit.

The National Guard has also launched a probe into the accident.

And the Defence Ministry said the soldier was one of the most experienced and qualified, having served as a contract member of the army for six years.

It was the third fatal accident during National Guard exercises in just over a year.

A month earlier, Corporal Natalie Neophytou, 27, was killed after an army jeep she was a passenger in overturned and landed on her.

Neophytou was accompanying a soldier and another officer to fill up the jeep with fuel following a military exercise.

A year earlier, on 25 May 2021, a 32-year-old army officer, Xanthos Kyriakou, fell to his death while trying to descend from a cliff using a climbing rope, which appears to have snapped.

Kyriakou was participating in a search and rescue exercise at the time of the accident.