- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

ATHENS — The co-pilot and a flight attendant were among dozens of people still alive when a Cypriot airliner plunged into the mountains north of Athens, the coroner said yesterday, deepening the mystery over what incapacitated the flight carrying 121 persons.

Coroner Fillipos Koutsaftis said co-pilot Pambos Haralambous was alive when the Helios Airways jet crashed Sunday near Grammatiko, 25 miles north of Athens, killing everyone on board.

The pilots of two Greek F-16 fighter jets that intercepted the plane after it lost contact with Greek air traffic controllers reported seeing Mr. Haralambous slumped over the controls in the cockpit, apparently unconscious, shortly before the crash.

They said the plane’s German pilot was not in the cockpit, and his body has not been found. The fighter pilots reported seeing oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

The bodies of Mr. Haralambous and a flight attendant were found next to the cockpit wreckage, said Akrivos Tsolakis, head of the Greek airline safety committee.

Coroners stress they have not been able to determine whether the crew and passengers were conscious when the plane crashed. The results of toxicological tests to determine if they were knocked out by toxic fumes or gases, such as carbon monoxide, would take about two weeks.

Officials also said they found only the exterior container of the cockpit voice recorder from the Boeing 737-300, hampering investigative efforts into the accident’s cause.

The voice recorder’s internal components were ejected from the container when the plane crashed, Mr. Tsolakis said. He said the flight data recorder would be flown to Paris today for decoding.

A group of investigators would search for the rest of the voice recorder, he said. American analysts, including a Boeing representative, were providing assistance.

The plane was flying from Cyprus to Athens and was to have continued to Prague.

In Cyprus, police raided Helios Airways offices in the coastal city of Larnaca, near the international airport.

Investigators also were trying to determine why the pilot was not in his seat shortly before the crash. The F-16 pilots also saw two persons possibly trying to take control of the plane; it was not clear whether they were crew members or passengers.

Three bodies remain missing, including the plane’s pilot, fire officials said.

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