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Greece: Two firefighting pilots confirmed dead

The Air Force has confirmed that the two pilots missing since their firefighting aircraft crashed in southern Evia are dead.

In a statement, the General Air Staff Air Force named the two officers as Captain Christos Moulas (34) and his co-pilot, Second Lieutenant Periklis Stefanidis (27).

Leading tributes to the two pilots, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said: “Our sense of gratitude is immense and our sorrow for their loss profound.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Today Greeks are mourning the tragic loss of our pilots, Christos Moulas and Periklis Stefanidis, in Evia. They gave their lives saving lives; proving how risky their daily firefighting missions are. But also how great the self-sacrifice is of the frontline fighters.”

“The state stands with respect at the side of the families of the two heroes. They are two children, two brothers of all of us. Words do no suffice to describe the national mourning for their loss. So, we grit our teeth and turn our silence into strength. In their memory, we will continue the war against the destructive forces of nature.”

Announcing three days of mourning in the Armed Forces, Defence Minister Nikos Dendias said: “The loss of the lives of Air Force officers and firefighting aircraft operators in the line of duty and while attempting to protect the lives and property of citizens, as well as the environment of our country, is deeply saddening. Our thoughts are with their families and colleagues, to whom we extend our most sincere condolences,” Dendias said.

Also paying tribute was French President Emmanuel Macron, who said his “thoughts are with the families of the crew, their loved ones and the Greek people. Our support goes to the heroes who, in Greece, France and everywhere else, risk their lives every summer to put out the fires.”

Earlier, the Air Force said: “At 15:05, a CL-215 aircraft, with a crew of two airmen, of the 355th Tactical Transport Squadron of the 112th Combat Wing, crashed during aerial firefighting in Platanistos, Evia.”

Platanistos lies about 10km east of Karystos, in the south of the island.

The plane had no ejection system.

State broadcaster ERT showed footage of the plane dropping water over a fire, striking a tree before crashing into a ravine and bursting into flames.

Footage also shows the aftermath of the crash.