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Cypriot plane crash kills 121, 48 children
Updated: 2005-08-15 06:40

GRAMMATIKO, Greece - A Cypriot plane full of vacationers slammed into a mountainside north of Athens on Sunday after at least one pilot lost consciousness from lack of oxygen, killing all 121 people aboard, more than a third of them children, AP reported.

Cypriot plane crash kills 121, 48 children
Rescuers walk by the tail of a Cypriot Helios Airways jet near the coastal town of Grammatikos, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Athens, Greece on Aug. 14 2005. The jet with 115 passengers and six crew members on board crashed Sunday north of Athens, the Defense Ministry and fire department said, and it was not clear if the pilots were conscious or at the controls when it went down. Helios Airways is a privately owned Cypriot airline. [AP]
The cause of Greece's deadliest plane crash appeared to be technical failure — resulting in high-altitude decompression — and not terrorism, authorities said. A transport official said the 115 passengers and six crew may have been dead when the plane went down.

Helios Airways flight ZU522 was headed from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Athens International Airport when it crashed at 12:05 p.m. near Grammatiko, a scenic village 25 miles north of the Greek capital. Flaming debris, luggage and bits of human remains were strewn across two ravines and surrounding hills.

Family members wept in anguish as they waited at the Athens and Larnaca airports. When news of the crash emerged at Larnaca, relatives swarmed the airline counters, shouting "murderers" and "you deserve lynching."

A man whose cousin was a passenger told Greece's Alpha television he received a cell-phone text message minutes before the crash. "He told me the pilots were unconscious. ... He said: "Farewell, cousin, here we're frozen," Sotiris Voutas said — indicating the plane was cold, a sign of decompression.

About a half-hour after takeoff, pilots reported air-conditioning system problems to Cyprus air traffic control. Within minutes, after entering Greek air space over the Aegean, the Boeing 737 lost all radio contact. Two Greek F-16 fighter jets were dispatched soon afterward.

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