Two pilots confirmed dead after plane nose-dived to ground in fireball crash while fighting Greek wildfires

25 July 2023, 13:36 | Updated: 25 July 2023, 17:14

The plane crashed north of Athens
The plane crashed north of Athens. Picture: ERT/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Two pilots have been confirmed dead after their plane crashed while battling the continuing blazes in Greece.

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Dreadful footage showed the Canadair CL-215 clip a tree as it flew low to tackle the blazes, forcing it to bank steeply before crashing into a fireball behind a hill.

The Minister of National Defence, Nikos Dendias, confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that both pilots died in the crash.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with their families and colleagues, to whom we extend our most sincere condolences.”

The Minister also announced a three-day mourning period in the Armed Forces.

Initially both were reported as missing by the fire service spokesman Yannis Artopios.

The plane was reported to have crashed near Karystos on Evia, north of Athens. Evacuation orders have been issued for the island.

Greek state broadcaster ERT filmed the incident and said a helicopter had been dispatched to examine the crash site.

Read more: Arsonists blamed for Corfu wildfires as Greece grapples with blazes while terrified Brit tourists flee

Firefighting plane crashes on Greek island

The plane crashed into a fireball on a hillside in Evia
The plane crashed into a fireball on a hillside in Evia. Picture: ERT

The plane was part of a Greek and international effort to battle fires around Athens, on the island of Rhodes and on Corfu as scorching heat grips southern European countries.

Billowing smoke has blanketed parts of Rhodes and fires have forced holidaymakers and locals to flee, while airlines have put on rescue missions to bring people back to Britain.

Some ended up in temporary accommodation, sleeping on the floors of stadiums and schools as they fled the devastation. The Foreign Office estimated up to 10,000 Brits could be on the island.

Read more: 'It's like a nightmare': Wildfires break out in Sicily as flights cancelled and airport shuts after temperatures hit 47C

The crash happened in the south eastern part of Evia
The crash happened in the south eastern part of Evia. Picture: Alamy

Evacuation orders have also been given for Corfu.

Greece said its evacuation operations amount to the biggest of their kind in its history.

Some 80 fires are being fought across the country as it faces heat above 40C in some parts, with climate change being blamed for making wildfires worse thanks to the hotter and drier conditions.

Roughly 500 firefighters have been sent from 10 EU member states, and Turkey, Israel and Egypt have also sent help.

Meanwhile, a blaze has broken out in Sicily after temperatures there reached 47C earlier in the week

While levelling up secretary Michael Gove has insisted Greece is safe to visit - he plans to visit on of the islands in just over a week - Labour peer Lord Young has questioned government travel advice.

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