Two pilots who died fighting wildfires in Greece told colleagues ‘we are ready to try’ in the minutes before their deaths.
Squadron Leader Christos Moulas and Deputy Squadron Leader Pericles Stefanidis lost their lives the island of Evia, near Athens.
As they flew above flames, their plane had clipped a tree which caused the aircraft to lose altitude.
Shortly before the crash, they had promised to make a final attempt to tame the wildfires on the hillside.
A firefighter on the ground is believed to be the final person to speak to the heroic pilots.
He told Greek broadcaster OPEN: ‘I still can’t believe that three minutes ago I was talking to them and after exactly 10 minutes I learned that the plane had crashed.
‘We had contact with them. They did not report any problems with the aircraft.
‘They told us “we are ready to try. We go for a last supply and we leave”.
‘A few minutes after we spoke, we learned over the radio that the aircraft had crashed.’
The Armed Forces in Greece are in three days of mourning following the tragedy, which took place at 3pm on Tuesday.
Both pilots died at the scene while firefighters tried desperately to extinguish flames that had spread over the wreckage of the aircraft.
According to local media, Squadron Leader Christos Moulas was married and his wife is three-months pregnant.
The 34-year-old was said to be passionate about planes and he often posted pictures from his flights on social media.
Deputy Squadron Leader Pericles Stefanidis, 27, had meanwhile dreamed of taking to the skies from an early age.
He, like Moulas, left this world as a hero.
Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said in a statement: ‘We Greeks mourn, today, the tragic death of our pilots Christos Moulas and Pericles Stefanidis in Evia.’
Yesterday, locals on the island of Evia spoke of their horror after hearing of the crash, 15 years after an eerily similar tragedy.
Two Greek pilots lost their lives while fighting wildfires on July 23, 2007.
They had been deployed to the region to tackle flames near the town of Styra, just 30 minutes away from where yesterday’s crash took place.
The owners of Villa Kasteli, a retreat nestled in the hills of the Evia island, said it was ‘ironic and sad’ for locals to hear the news of yet another crash.
The villa owners, who preferred not to be named, told Metro.co.uk: ‘The plane [in today’s crash] picked up water from Karystos bay and headed over the mountain to put out the fire.
‘They dropped the water and as you can see in the video unfortunately on the ascent one of the wings touched a tree and they crashed and exploded on impact. Two young Greek pilots dead.
‘The scene near the crash is all burnt and black.’
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