Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets

Cypriot prosecutors have announced that they intend to charge five people over the 2005 crash of Helios Airways Flight 522. The loss of the Boeing 737 killed all 121 people on board.

Attorney General Petros Clerides announced the plans today, but did not indicate who was to be charged or exactly what the offenses were.

"We came to the conclusion that, from the evidence gathered, a criminal prosecution is justified against several people whom we consider accountable for the plane crash," he said at a press conference in Nicosia.

The route the fatal flight took

The unresponsive aircraft, supposed to be flying between Lanarca to Prague, entered Greek airspace where it was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets on August 14, 2005.

The F-16 pilots reported the airliner's pilots were slumped over the controls. After flying on autopilot for two hours the aircraft crashed near Athens despite the efforts of a flight attendant, who was training to become a pilot, to take control and save the jet.

The subsequent investigation discovered that the pilots failed to adequately monitor the pressurisation system. The plane lost cabin pressure and hypoxia caused the incapacitation of the passengers and flight crew. It is thought that the conscious flight attendant had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to outlast the others on board. Investigators also believe that the equipment had been left in the wrong setting after testing by maintenance engineers and never checked before flight.

After failing to resuscitate the pilot-in-command, the trainee pilot turned off the autopilot and attempted an emergency landing at Athens International Airport, which the aircraft had been circling in a holding pattern awaiting human input. However, the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the runway.