"the best post on the subject [of the Stockwell shooting] so far and I agree. A must read." - Tim Worstall, August 21, 2005

"Chris at Optimus In Omnis wrote a thoughtful post in July...his more recent post describes the edginess many Londoners feel" - BBC News Online, August 22, 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cypriot Airliner crashes, terrorism possible

115 passengers and 6 crew members aboard a Helios Airlines plane are thought to be dead and the circumstances surrounding the crashing of the plane near mountains north of Athens are suspicious today, with terrorism a distinct possibility.

The airliner, a Boeing 737, which was travelling from Cyrpus to Prague, was being accompanied by two Greek F-16 fighter jets before it fell from the air, as a result of Greek air traffic control losing contact with the pilot. Reports from the jets claim that one of the two pilots aboard the airliner was unseen; the other was slumped over in his chair. Upon crashlanding in woodland north of the Greek capital, fire crews were dispatched immediately in order to put out the "fire, [and move] lots of debris," said Fire Commander Nikos Papamichos. Eyewitnesses are saying that it is unlikely that there are any survivors, with the plane being engulfed in flames.

Speculation is rife that this may, however, have been a freak accident. Unconfirmed reports claim that the pilot, earlier in the flight, sent a message citing problems with the air conditioning aboard the plane, which could have resulted in a dirty airflow, poisoning the pilots and the passengers aboard.

12:10pm A text message sent by one of the passengers aboard the plane to his cousin just moments before the crash seems to have determined the cause of this horrible accident: "the pilot has turned blue [due to the cold.]" What followed was a sombre message of "cousin farewell" before the passenger jet hit ground.

5:58pm: Not a single life was spared in the indescriminate fire which still rages around the crumpled remains of flight ZU522, a harsh contrast with the rejoiceful aftermath of the Air France jet which crashed at Toronto's Pearson Airport just weeks ago. Of the 121 people on board, 48 were children, travelling on their way to Prague from Larnaca in Cyprus. Various sources have emerged which differ on key facts: Haris Thrasou, the Cypriot Transport Minister, claimed that the 737s used by Helios Airlines have had decompression problems in the past, where the pressure surrounding the plane far outweighs that in the cabin, resulting in a lack of oxygen, a problem exacerbated by the news that the plane was flying over 30,000 feet, which only shortens the time one can survive if such a thing occurs. Representatives of Helios Airlines refute that fact.

Another disputed point is the sources from some Greek news agencies, but not all, that at least one of the fighter pilots who flew alongside the aircraft saw oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling of the cockpit, which would suggest that the cause of this crash was indeed decompression of a serious nature.


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