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11 July, 2002
The Greek-born commander of Cyprus' National Guard was killed early Wednesday in an army helicopter crash outside the Cypriot town of Paphos that also claimed the lives of the Cyprus Airforce commander and three other officers.
National Guard commander Lt.-Gen. Evangelos Florakis, a Greek national, was killed together with Cyprus airforce commander Brigadier Stelios Demenagas, Demenagas' adjutant Lt. Nikolas Georgiou, and the helicopter's two pilots, Flight Lieut. Paris Athanasiades and Flying Officer Michalis Siakallis, when their National Guard 'Bell 206' helicopter crashed into the Diarizos River bed at 4:20, for reasons as yet unknown, and burst into flames.
The helicopter was en route from Nicosia to Paphos when it crashed just four kilometers from the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos, where it was scheduled to land.
The helicopter's last communication with the control tower at Larnaca airport was at 4:05 a.m., just 15 minutes before it crashed, but no problems were reported at the time.
A committee has been set up to investigate the causes of the accident, which was the first since the helicopter squadron was established in the National Guard.
Florakis was born in the Greek town of Arta in February 1943. He was admitted to Greece's Evelpidon Military Academy in 1962, ranking 7th among 120, and also studied at the Hellenic Armed Forces' national Defense Academy as well as at several other specialized military academies.
He served in several commands in Greece before being honorably discharged in May 2000, at which time he was recalled to active service to take over the command of the national Guard in Cyprus, succeeding Lt.-Gen. Dimitrios Dimou.
Florakis has been awarded with numerous military decorations, including the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor.
Government condolences on Cyprus air crash that killed National Guard, Airforce chiefs:The Greek government on Wednesday expressed "deep grief" and its condolences to the government of Cyprus over a dawn helicopter crash in which the commanders of the Cyprus National Guard and Airforce and three other officers were killed.
In Athens, government spokesman Christos Protopapas expressed the government's deep grief and its condolences to the Nicosia government and the families of the five officers.
He said that according to all indications so far, the crash had been an accident, but added that an in-depth investigation would be made into the causes of the crash.
Protopapas said that two experts from Greece would leave in the afternoon for Cyprus on a military plane to help in the investigation.
Papantoniou on helicopter accident in Cyprus:
National Defense Minister Giannos Papantoniou on Wednesday expressed his condolences to the families of the five officers who lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Cyprus on Wednesday.
Asked to speculate on the helicopter accident, Papantoniou said that "it was a tragic event that took place in the line of duty while the five officers were on their way to a military exercise location".
"Greece and Hellenism is conducting a struggle for survival in Greece, the Aegean and in Cyprus" the minister said, adding that "the men and the women who lose their lives, fall in the line of duty. This is Greece's fate"
Source: Athens News Agency