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Cypriot prosecutors said on Tuesday said they would bring criminal charges against five people over a 2005 air crash which killed 121 people. The Helios Airways Boeing 737-300 was travelling from Larnaca in Cyprus to Prague when it crashed just north of the Greek capital Athens on August 14 2005, killing everyone on board in Greece and Cyprus's worst air disaster.
"We have concluded that criminal prosecution is warranted against certain individuals who we believe bear responsibility for the crash," said Cyprus's chief prosecutor, Attorney-General Petros Clerides.
The aircraft was gliding on autopilot in Greek air space for two hours with most people on board unconscious before it ran out of fuel and crashed into a hillside. A flight attendant with a trainee pilot's licence had taken the controls and tried in vain to avert the disaster.
Clerides declined to specify the charges, which he said were still being drafted, or name the individuals concerned. "These concern serious, possibly the most serious offences of our criminal code."
An inquiry by Greek authorities published in October 2006 blamed the crash on a preflight check which failed to see that a gauge regulating oxygen to the aircraft was on the wrong setting, and pilots' failure to pick up on warnings the aircraft was running out of oxygen. It also cited deficiencies in the safety culture of the airline.
Helios, which was renamed after the disaster, has since shut down. Nearly all the victims were Cypriots, including many families with children.
"We want everyone involved in this crime to be prosecuted. It's been three years, and this case should go to court," said Prodromos Prodromou, whose nephew Andreas had attempted to pilot the plane.
Two Greek F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept the aircraft saw a pilot slumped over the controls, and a second man wearing an oxygen mask trying to pilot the aircraft.
The second man was the flight attendant who broke into the cockpit and briefly flew the aircraft. He was thought to be the only person conscious on board at the time of the crash.

Financial Mirror, November 04, 2008|||Cyprus to charge five for Helios air disaster
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