Relatives honour Helios air crash victims

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Relatives of those who perished on Helios Airways Flight 522, which claimed the lives of 121 passengers and crew 18 years ago, will visit the Grammatikos mountain Greek crash site on Monday to honour their loved ones.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on behalf of the victims’ relatives, Niki Michaelidou said the memorial service for the 121 victims would be held at the chapel of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, which the relatives built at Grammatikos, Greece.

After that, the relatives will ascend to the mountain’s summit, the site of the aircraft’s crash, where the customary prayer for their souls will be performed.

This year marks the 18th anniversary of the crash of the Helios Airways aeroplane, which killed everyone on board, including 22 children, the six crew members, on 14 August 2005.

Some 103 victims were of Cypriot descent, and 12 were Greeks.

It was the worst civil aviation disaster in Cyprus and Greece’s history and one of the most puzzling.

The flight crew had become incapacitated shortly after take-off from Larnaca due to the loss of cabin pressure.

With passengers and crew all incapacitated due to the onset of hypoxia, the plane overflew Athens on autopilot and eventually entered a holding pattern north of the Greek capital.

With exhausted fuel, the aircraft began to descend and crashed into mountainous terrain about 40km north of Athens International Airport, its intended destination.

The subsequent investigation into the accident involving Flight 522 concluded that both maintenance crews and the pilots had failed to ensure the pressurization system was set to ‘automatic’ before departure.