Recorder Missing In Greece Crash

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.
Officials on Tuesday said they had found only the exterior container of the cockpit voice recorder from a Cypriot airliner crash that killed 121 people, hampering investigative efforts into the accident's cause.

Autopsies on the bodies of 20 people on board, including the co-pilot and a flight attendant, show they were alive when the plane went down, coroners said Tuesday.

Fillipos Koutsaftis, Athens' chief coroner, told The Associated Press that co-pilot Pambos Haralambous was alive when the Helios Airways plane crashed on a mountain north of Athens on Sunday.

Pilots of two Greek F-16 fighter jets had reported seeing the co-pilot slumped over the cockpit controls, apparently unconscious, shortly before the crash. They said the plane's German pilot was not in the cockpit.

The voice recorder's internal components were ejected from the container during the crash, said Akrivos Tsolakis, the head of the Greek airline safety committee.

"The only fortunate event in the investigation is that we have the flight data recorder," Tsolakis said, adding that the box would be flown to Paris on Wednesday for decoding.

He said a group of investigators would search for the rest of the voice recorder. He said American experts, including a representative of the plane's manufacturer, were providing assistance.

The voice recorder picks up any conversation inside the cockpit but records only the last 30 minutes of sound. Because the airplane appeared to have been flying disabled for several hours, it wasn't clear how useful any recovered conversations would be for investigators.

Tsolakis said the bodies of the plane's Cypriot co-pilot and one of the flight attendant were found next to the wreckage of the cockpit.

The Helios Airways Boeing 737-300, with six crew and 115 passengers, plunged 34,000 feet into a mountainous area near the village of Grammatiko, 25 miles north of Athens. It had taken off in Cyprus and was heading for Prague, Czech Republic.