Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax

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Monday, August 15, 2005

The first findings from the preliminary investigations into Sunday's air disaster have been released. All 121 on board a Helios Boeing 737 died when it crashed near Athens after flying from Cyprus. A text message, reportedly sent from the doomed aircraft, has also been revealed as a hoax.

Greek Chief Coroner Philippos Koutsaftis stated "Until now I have done an autopsy on six bodies and first evidence is that when they were killed they had circulation in their heart and lungs.

"That does not mean that they were conscious but that they had breath and circulation. They had circulation and heartbeat so they were alive."

Initial reports from the Greek Defence Ministry had suggested the bodies were "frozen solid" at the moment of impact.

The coroner stressed that as more post mortems were carried out new evidence may come to light.

Nothing is known about the cause of the disaster beyond the fact that everyone on board the airliner was incapacitated at some point, and that emergency oxygen masks had been used. Speculation abounds, with the theory that the airliner failed to maintain pressurisation at some point being the most popular theory.

Helios has said the aircraft was maintained in line with European regulations and had also received a standard inspection before take-off.

Greek police have also arrested a man who claimed his cousin texted him from the airliner, saying the pilots were blue in the face and that they were freezing. He was brought to the district attorney where two charges were filed against him, for lying to the authorities and for spreading false information, and a trial was scheduled. The man claimed that his intention was to gain publicity.

Police have also attended Helios's offices to requisition documents as part of the investigation into the disaster.

It has also been revealed that Helios is owned by a British company, Libra Holidays Group. Helios are giving the relatives of each victim €19,000 in initial compensation, as is required by the Montreal Convention and EU regulations.