The last man conscious in the cockpit of a doomed Cypriot airliner made a desperate call for help -- "Mayday! Mayday!" -- two seconds before the plane carrying 121 people smashed into a mountain near Athens on Aug. 14, investigators reported Monday.
The man, apparently a flight attendant with pilot training, issued distress calls twice in the final 10 minutes of Helios Airways' Flight 522, according to the chief investigator, Akrivos Tsolakis. "The second time was a couple of seconds before the crash," Tsolakis said, adding that the man had "a very weak tone of voice."
Earlier Monday, Tsolakis issued a preliminary report on the crash, which killed all 115 passengers and six crew members, that said the Boeing 737-300 lost cabin pressure and eventually ran out of fuel.
The report was the most comprehensive statement the government has released on the investigation. Greek investigators, aided by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, are continuing to probe the crash.
Tsolakis presented his initial findings following analysis of flight recorders and autopsies on all 118 bodies -- many still unidentified -- recovered from the site. Three bodies have not been found, including that of the plane's pilot, a German.
"The crash is like an explosion, and the pilot's body may not necessarily have ended up close to the cockpit," Tsolakis told state-run NET television. "He may be one of the unidentified bodies."
The report appears to confirm initial suspicions that people aboard the Helios Airways plane were incapacitated by a loss of cabin pressure early in the flight at about 34,000 feet and that someone tried to save the jetliner shortly before it crashed.
According to the report issued Monday, a man wearing an oxygen mask, believed to be 25-year-old flight attendant Andreas Prodromou, tried to steer the plane for the last 10 minutes and contact air traffic control authorities.
In his first appeal he cried "Mayday!" three times, but the plane's communications system had apparently been set to the wrong frequency, Tsolakis said. It remains unclear how Prodromou stayed conscious.
The jet, flying from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Athens, ran out of fuel before crashing near Grammatiko, a village 25 miles north of Athens, the report said. The plane crashed after circling for more than an hour in a holding pattern above the Aegean Sea island of Kea, southeast of Athens International Airport.