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Cyprus Declares Mourning for 121 Victims of Sunday's Plane Crash


Cyprus has declared three days of mourning for the victims of Sunday's crash of a Cypriot passenger jet near Athens.

The Cypriot airliner with 121 people on board crashed north of Athens on Sunday. There were no survivors. The causes of the crash are still unclear, but officials suspect a sudden drop in cabin pressure that deprived the crew and passengers of oxygen.

Investigators have recovered the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

The Helios Airways flight had departed from Larnaca, Cyprus, and was due to stop in Athens before flying on to Prague in the Czech Republic.

The pilot informed air traffic controllers at Athens international airport that his plane was experiencing air-conditioning problems. But moments later, communications with the plane were lost. Two Greek F-16 fighter jets were immediately sent out to look for the plane.

The jets located the plane and reported that the pilots appeared to be unconscious in the cockpit just before the crash took place. One passenger managed to text message his cousin just moments before the crash.

In his message he said the pilots were unconscious. Aware there was little hope of survival he added: "Farewell cousins, we're freezing."

Plane wreckage, human remains, pieces of luggage and debris were visible amid the smoke and fire in the mountainous area north of Athens where the plane went down.

The crash was the worst airline disaster in Greek history. The Greek prime minister and Cypriot president both immediately canceled their holidays when they heard of the disaster.

Anguished relatives and friends of those on board were gathered at the Larnaca, Athens and Prague airports awaiting news.

The Greek Defense Ministry said it suspected the plane's oxygen supply or pressurization system may have malfunctioned, but a Greek government official said all scenarios were being investigated.