Monday, August 15, 2005
The Mystery of Helios Flight 522 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: The BBC News and the Associated Press report:
...Monday, police in northern Greece said they had arrested a man who said he had received a telephone text message from a passenger on board the doomed plane, according to AP.

Police said the man was Nektarios-Sotirios Voutas, 32, who had told Greek TV stations Sunday his cousin texted him minutes before the crash saying: "Farewell, cousin, here we're frozen." Authorities said they believed the man was lying, and his cousin's name was not on the Cypriot government's official list of victims.
I thought that was a bit fishy, too...read on:

With speculation that all passengers on board, as well as the crew, froze to death in their seats before the doomed 737 crashed, many strange inconsistencies are appearing in new reports. Several news accounts state that the pair of Greek F-16 fighters scrambled to intercept the unreponsive "renegade" airliner saw that the cockpit was empty. However, news reports in the German Expatica.com say that the fighter pilots did see someone inside the cockpit, although without clarification from the damaged "black box" recorder, we may never know if the unauthorized person(s) were there to help or harm:
The last minutes of the 737 flight appear to have baffled Greek authorities.

Two Greek F-16 fighter planes were ordered to trail the "renegade jet" after it lost contact with the control tower at Athens International Airport once it entered Greek airspace over the Aegean Sea, approximately 23 minutes after take-off.

The fighter pilots reported to Greek authorities that, with the pilots apparently out of action, there may have been a last effort by others on the plane to bring it under control.

They reported seeing two individuals in the cockpit, but it is unclear if they were passengers or crew members.

The F-16 pilots also reported that oxygen masks were hanging down in the cabin, indicating a problem with the oxygen supply onboard. A man whose cousin was a passenger on the plane told Greek television he received a cell-phone text message minutes before the crash.

"The pilot has turned blue," it said. "Cousin, farewell we are freezing." But it was not clear whether the pilot had left the cockpit to enter the passenger cabin or whether the sender of the text message had been in the cockpit.
Think about it - if the pilot and co-pilot were incapacitated [other reports say the pilot was absent from the cockpit, while the co-pilot was seen slumped over in his chair] who on board was still conscious enough to attempt to take control of the plane, and how and why were they still able to move about? Since it does take come calm and presence of mind to initiate, type, and send a text message, the fatalistic tone of the note is a bit odd - if the messager was that lucid, why not try to contact someone using the emergency radio (or the phone) for help? Why only "Cousin, farewell we are freezing"?

Other inconsistencies include the nationalities of the passengers (some reports say all were Cypriot, some say there were *Australian (see update) and Armenian passengers as well), the number of children on board (first reports from the airline said there were 48 children on board out of 121 total occupants, which is a rather high number), later accounts are quite different. From CTV Canada:
Greek deputy Health Minister Giorgos Constantopoulos said Monday that there were 21 children, contradicting without explanation statements the day before that suggested there were 48 children.
MORE: offical press release from the Cyprus News Agency
"Speculation runs high over Helios Disaster" [Cyprus Mail]
CBC: "Cypriot airliner 'black boxes' sent to France; searchers seek 3 more bodies"

*UPDATE: The tragic deaths of all but but the youngest member (a 2-year old boy left in the care of relatives) of the Demos Xiourouppa family, the Australian passengers who died on flight 522.