ATHENS, Greece – A Cypriot airliner that crashed earlier this month, killing 121 people on board, lost cabin pressure and ran out of fuel before slamming into a mountain near Athens, according to a preliminary report released Monday.
The findings, presented to the Transport Ministry by chief investigator Akrivos Tsolakis (search), also said there were indications the Boeing 737-300's pilot and co-pilot were incapacitated and that a third man — believed to be a flight attendant — had attempted to steer the plane.
"There are indications of technical problems in the pressurization system. ... There is proof that the engines of the plane stopped working because the fuel supply was exhausted, and that this was the final cause of the crash," the report said.
The report, a copy of which was sent to The Associated Press, follows the analysis of flight recorders and autopsies on all 118 bodies recovered from the site. Three bodies have not been found.
Helios Airways (search) Flight 522 from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Athens crashed on Aug. 14 near the village of Grammatiko, 25 miles north of Athens, in Greece's worst air disaster.
The man who tried to steer the plane is believed to be flight attendant Andreas Prodromou (search), whose blood was reportedly found in the remains of the cockpit and had received flight training in the past.
The report said the man in the cockpit had twice tried to issue a distress call — calling out "Mayday, Mayday" — but that his communications had apparently been set to the wrong frequency.
"There are indications that, in the pilot's seat ... a man was seating in the seat, wearing an oxygen mask," it said. "The tone of his voice suggested the person was a man who was suffering or was exhausted."
The preliminary findings were announced after 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.
On Sunday, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis (search) repeated government assurances that the plane had not been shot down.