3 feared dead as Greek navy helicopter crashes into Aegean Sea: report

ATHENS (AFP) - Three Greek navy personnel were missing and feared dead on Thursday (Feb 11) after their helicopter crashed into a small islet in the Aegean Sea during an exercise, the Defence Ministry said.

Commando units recovered the wreckage near the Dodecanese islet of Kinaros, but the two pilots and one engineer on board were still unaccounted for, the ministry said.

"The (helicopter's) signal was lost at (12.45am GMT)... and a thermal signal was located at (2.40am) on a mountainous area on Kinaros," a navy spokesman said.

Commando units, paratroopers and the fire department's elite rescue squad were searching the islet for the crewmen, he said.

"We have not found all the pieces of the helicopter yet... the area is very hard to access," said Greek armed forces chief Evangelos Apostolakis.

The Agusta Bell helicopter had earlier taken off from a frigate, and Mr Apostolakis said it had given no sign of trouble before the crash.

The ANA agency reported that all three are dead, but the Greek defence minister denied this as the search is ongoing.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos added in a tweet that people should have respect for the officers' families.

Mr Kammenos said he was cutting short his participation in a Nato summit in Brussels and was returning to Athens because of the incident.