Cyprus government declares three days of mourning
Nicosia, Jul 10 (CNA) -- The Cyprus government today declared three days of
mourning for the death of National Guard Commander, Lieutenant General
Evangelos Florakis, and four other army officers killed early this morning when
their helicopter crashed near Paphos. Flags will fly at half-mast at all public
buildings and National Guard camps.
Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said after a meeting at the Presidential Palace, presided over by President Glafcos Clerides, that procedures to name a new National Guard chief were under way.
He said Cypriot experts have already begun investigating the circumstances under which the accident occurred. Greek experts will join their Cypriot colleagues in the investigations.
Invited to say whether the possibility of a sabotage has been ruled out, the Spokesman said "since an investigation is being conducted we have to look into all possibilities."
He added, however, that all evidence indicate that it was an accident.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
Papapetrou said the Cyprus government was in constant touch with the Greek authorities since the very first moment of the helicopter crash.
The National Guard Chief and Cyprus Air Force Commander, Brigadier Stelios Demenagas, were of Greek origin.
The other three officers, Lieutenant Nikos Georgiou, Flight Lieutenant Paris Athanasiades and Flank Officer Michalis Shiakallis, were of Cypriot origin.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the United States Embassy in Cyprus said it "was saddened to learn of the tragic accident that led to the death of five National Guard officers, including Lieutenant General Evangelos Florakis", adding that "all of us at the Embassy extend our sympathy to the families of those killed in this tragedy".|
The five National Guard officers were on their way to a military exercise when the helicopter came down, not too far from the air base of Andreas Papandreou in Paphos on the western coast.
This is the first time the National Guard has had to deal with such an incident. The bodies of all the dead officers are now at Paphos hospital for an autopsy.