ATHENS, Greece – Autopsies on 118 bodies recovered from the Aug. 14 plane crash near Athens show all passengers and crew died on impact, a chief state coroner said Sunday.
The coroner, Fillippos Koutsaftis, said examination of DNA, tissue and dental records would continue in an effort to identify those bodies too badly damaged by the impact and the ensuing fire for families to recognize them.
Helios Flight 522 (search) had been flying from Larnaca, Cyprus (search), to Athens with 115 passengers and six crew when it crashed into a mountainous region near the village of Grammatiko (search), about 25 miles north of Athens, in Greece's worst air disaster. Three bodies have not been found.
Investigators are examining reports that the plane's pilots were incapacitated by a possible loss of cabin pressure, but have not determined precisely what went wrong on the flight before it crashed.
A former chief mechanic at Helios said the plane lost cabin pressure during a December flight after a door apparently was not sealed properly.
On the day of the crash, two Greek air force F-16 fighter planes were scrambled to intercept the flight shortly before the accident. Pilots reported seeing the co-pilot slumped over the controls, apparently unconscious, government officials have said.
Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said security procedures were modeled on measures drawn up for the Athens Olympics last year, but repeated government assurances that the plane had not been shot down.
"The fact that the plane crashed and was not shot down is proven by data from flight recorders and the ammunition checks made on the F-16s ... An explosion in the air would have spread the wreckage over a much wider area," Voulgarakis was quoted as saying by the Chora newspaper.
"If this incident had taken place during the Olympics, the chances of it being shot down would have been extremely high."
On Saturday, state-run NET television reported that tests on traces of blood found in the wreckage have indicated that a flight attendant who reportedly received flight training was in the cockpit when the Boeing 737-300 slammed into a mountain north of Athens. The 25-year-old attendant's father said he believed his son died trying to save the flight.
"He always loved airplanes and everything about flying," said Dinos Prodromou, the father of Andreas Prodromou. "I believe my son had the courage to do what was necessary. Unfortunately, he didn't make it."