Greek, Romanian Firefighters Die After Helicopter Crashes in Greece

Two crew members on an Mi 8-type helicopter taking part in an aerial firefighting operation on the Greek island of Samos died when their helicopter crashed in the sea southwest of the island.

A firefighter sprays water during a wildfire in a forest area in Evia, on August 10, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/SPIROS KOUROS.

Two of the four-member crew of a rented Mi 8-type helicopter tackling a forest fire on the Greek island of Samos died when their helicopter crashed on Wednesday night, Kathimerini media outlet reported. One was Greek and one was Romanian.

The crew took off from Samos airport and the helicopter crashed in the sea southwest of the island. High winds were present in the area.

On board were a Moldovan pilot and flight engineer, a Romanian co-pilot, and a Greek interpreter, who had a liaison role to coordinate the helicopter’s work with ground forces tackling the fire.

The Mi-8 type helicopter has Ukrainian registration and was leased by the Hellenic Fire Service through NATO’s NSPA service for this year’s firefighting season.

“The Hellenic Fire Service expresses its sorrow for the loss of the two members of the four-member crew which crashed yesterday in the sea area of Samos during an aerial firefighting operation. The causes of the accident are being investigated,” Ioannis Artopoios, spokesperson of the Hellenic Fire Service, told BIRN.

The fire broke out on Wednesday in a forest area and continued to burn late that night. Three residential areas were evacuated. As night fell, aerial operations ceased and the work of tackling the blaze was continued by ground forces.

“We had a big fire under extreme weather conditions; we had a difficult night … the fire even reached the sea. The important thing is that we had no human losses from the fire. What makes us particularly sad is that two people who came to help in Samos were lost. I hope that this will be the only and the last sad incident for this summer,” Mayor of West Samos, Alexandros Lymberis, told BIRN.

The fire has since been contained and residents and holidaymakers are returning to residential areas.

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