Investigators from Paphos’ Criminal Investigation Department are probing the death of a commando who jumped in the water from a helicopter during the shooting of a promo video, with reports saying they are focusing on footage to ascertain the aircraft’s maneuvers but also asking the army for audio recordings during the fatal mission.
Police have been assigned to probe the injury and subsequent death of private commando Panayiotis Yiannios, whose mission on Monday went terribly wrong when he jumped out of a moving helicopter over water in Paphos while the operation was being filmed for a National Guard promotional video.
The incident took place over water near Lara beach on Monday around noon when the 27-year-old paratrooper jumped in the water, initially sustaining serious injuries and two days later succumbing to his injuries.
Yiannios had suffered a fractured spine and swelling of the brain, while unconfirmed reports suggested the possibility of a cardiac event.
Police declined to describe the nature of the investigation but told Knews on Friday that law enforcement got involved from the beginning when the commando was injured, and now they were investigating both the circumstances of his injury as well as death.
Questions were raised over training required for the specific drop, as only underwater special forces were known to execute such operations unlike special commandos who were part of ground forces
Reports said audio communications recorded between the pilot and the commando were under investigation, while the exact maneuvers of the helicopter were also being examined by police investigators.
Earlier this week a previous claim attributed to defense ministry officials that the helicopter was at the standard height of eight meters above water at the time of the jump -as initially reported- was said to have remained unconfirmed after reports said the aircraft was in fact flying at an altitude said to be over 20 meters (65 feet).
Local media said video being shot at the time of the operation for promotional purposes was believed to have captured the incident, with reports also suggesting the helicopter was both moving and turning when the commando fell into water.
Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides said “it is very important to ascertain the height at which the drop was made and whether the helicopter was indeed in a drop position when the 27-year-old commando executed the jump.”
“There are various flight data and audiovisual material at our disposal, which apparently will shed light on the incident soon,” Petrides said.
According to Philenews, a military expert said “the fall was as if he had landed on concrete,” with the daily network saying defense officials believed the drop took place “at the wrong altitude and at the wrong time.”
The National Guard maintains Yiannios was an experienced commando after having served in the military for six years.
But local media raised questions over training required for the specific drop, citing sources that pointed out only elite members of the underwater special forces (navy seals) were known to execute such difficult operations, unlike special commandos who were part of ground forces.
The defense ministry maintains the incident took place during a scheduled exercise but officials probed over new information later admitted the operation was not usual as it was a special mission for promotional purposes.
Petrides has dismissed reports that Yiannios was injured after falling onto a boat in the water, adding all information would be made public after the completion of the probe.