Seventeen years after the crash of Helios Airways Flight 522, which claimed the lives of 121 passengers and crew on board, Akrivos Tsolakis, the expert who carried out the investigation on the cause of the accident, told CNA that this has been a traumatic experience for him, a “punch to the stomach” which he will never forget.
Helios Airways Flight 522 was a scheduled passenger flight from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Prague, Czech Republic, with a stopover in Athens, Greece. The flight crashed in the mountainous area of Grammatikos on August 14, 2005, killing all 121 passengers and crew on board.
“I cannot sleep since then. This event has psychollogically affected me. I tried to find a cure but for 17 years I carry this experience with me,” Tsolakis told CNA in a telephone interview.
Tsolakis who was then Chairman of the Greek Aircraft Accidents Inquiry Committee said in his report that the aircraft crashed because warnings that things were wrong had not been identified, the cabin pressurisation selector was in the manual position, the crew was incapacitated because of lack of oxygen and the aircraft ran out of fuel.
In his interview with CNA, he said that the period of the investigation will never be erased from his memory.
He noted that his report was recognised worldwide and is now being used as educational material by flight safety tutors.
Moreover, Tsolakis said that five out of the 16 recommendations included in the report have been adopted by the aviation industry globally.
A memorial service for the people killed during the crash took place on Sunday in Paralimni.
Speaking during the service, Health Minister, Michalis Hadjipantela, said that this was an unprecedented tragedy for Cyprus that shocked everyone.
Moreover, he noted that since the accident, the relatives of the victims experience immense grief and sorrow over the loss of their beloved ones.
Hadjipantela said that the government supported the families in practice with an amount of 3 million euros and provided scholarships to 11 orphans of victims.