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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK

World: Europe

Plane accident kills Greek minister

Romanian soldiers guard the Greek aircraft at Bucharest airport

The Greek minister in charge of European affairs, Yiannos Kranidiotis, was among at least six people killed when their plane suddenly plunged several thousand metres after hitting turbulence en route to Romania.

The Falcon executive jet, with 13 people on board, managed to land at Bucharest airport where Mr Kranidiotis had been due to attend a meeting on Balkan co-operation.

His 23-year-old son, Nikos, was among those killed in the accident.

Mr Kranidiotis is credited as the architect of the recently launched dialogue between Greece and Turkey and correspondents describe him as a rising star in Greek politics.

[ image: Neither Mr Kranidiotis or his son Nikos (left) are thought to have been wearing seatbelts]
Neither Mr Kranidiotis or his son Nikos (left) are thought to have been wearing seatbelts
Whilst making its descent towards Bucharest airport the aircraft apparently lost height and dropped suddenly from an altitude of approximately 8,000 to 1,000 metres.

According to one of the injured now in hospital in the Romanian capital, Mr. Kranidiotis had just stood up to brief journalists and so was not wearing his seatbelt when the aircraft began its dive.

The other victims are also thought to have not been wearing their seatbelts.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou was stunned by the news and stated that not only had he personally lost a friend and colleague, but that Greece and Cyprus had lost a tireless worker for their national rights.

An Olympic Airways aircraft has left Athens for Bucharest carrying government officials, doctors, relatives of the victims and passengers as well as technical experts from both the civili aviation and air force authorities.

They will assist in ascertaining the cause of such an altitude loss which resulted in these six deaths.

The bodies of those killed in the accident, together with the injured permitted to travel, are expected to be returned to Athens later today on the same Olympic Airways aircraft.

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