Helicopter black box key to fatal army accident

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Investigators into the fatal accident of 27-year-old commando Panayiotis Yiannios are waiting for evidence from the black box of the helicopter that carried him before dropping to his death off Lara Bay, Paphos.

According to daily Phileleftheros, police requested that evidence be collected from the helicopter’s black box to complete its probe into the commando’s death.

Following a request for judicial assistance from the Italian authorities, investigators were greenlighted to go to the factory of the manufacturing company to obtain recordings of the conversations inside the helicopter.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou said two officers would travel to Italy next week to pick up the evidence.

Shortly before he went into the water, the recorded conversations could shed light on the instructions from the cockpit to the officer in charge, who in turn ordered the soldiers to jump into the water during the exercise.

According to reports, police investigations so far hint at responsibilities over how the exercise was carried out, most notably the fact that the helicopter was flying too high, at the wrong angle, with the side doors open.

Investigators have received statements from the people inside the helicopter and those on the ground.

During the soldier’s fatal drop, five people were in the cabin, including two pilots and a cameraman recording footage for advertising.

It is expected that upon the return of the two experts from Italy, the conclusion with the recommendations of the police will be forwarded to the Legal Service.

The findings of the probes of two more fatal accidents in the National Guard in just over a year are also expected to be delivered to the Attorney General in the coming weeks.

Yiannios was injured after jumping from a helicopter during a military search and rescue exercise 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.

The National Guard also launched a probe into the accident.

And the Defence Ministry said the soldier was one of the most experienced and qualified, having served under contract 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.