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Greek navy helicopter crashes with three people on board

Greek military is searching for three airmen whose helicopter crashed into a small islet in the eastern Aegean Sea. The incident occurred during a nighttime training flight, authorities say.

The commando units located the wreckage from the aircraft, but the two pilots and an engineer on board were still unaccounted for, the defense ministry said on Thursday.

"We have not found all the pieces of the helicopter yet... the area is very hard to access," said Greek armed forces chief Evangelos Apostolakis.

The special navy troops, paratroopers and firefighters were searching for the missing airmen off the Greek island of Leros. However, Apostolakis said there was little hope that any of the crew would be found alive.

Bad weather conditions are hampering the work of the rescue teams, he added.

The Bell 212 helicopter crashed early Thursday after taking off from a frigate in the Aegean sea for a nighttime training exercise. The crew did not indicate any problems with the aircraft ahead of the crash, Apostolakis said.

Stand-off with Turkey

Greece has a major

military presence in the Aegean Sea

region due to a border dispute with a fellow NATO member Turkey.

In the wake of the Thursday incident, Turkey issued a notice saying the rescue effort should be coordinated with Ankara, as it operates within the country's maritime search and rescue region.

The crash prompted Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos to returned to Athens from Brussels, cutting short his stay at a NATO summit.

dj/jil (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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