Devastated, the parents of Efstathios Tsitlakidis, the squadron leader of the Phantom F-4 fighter that crashed 25 nautical miles south of Andravida on Monday, arrived shortly after 9:30 in the morning at a church in Nevrokopi for the final farewell to their child.
A tragic figure, the mother of the 31-year-old pilot, who, as she walked towards the church, whispered "high, high" and looked at the sky. At 10:00, the fiancé of the deceased pilot also arrived, holding a photo of him in her hands.
The fiancé of the deceased pilot had a photograph of him in her hands:
"He was a very good boy and looked after us. He was flying and we admired him. In a way he was our hero. He was flying low, we used to go outside our houses to see him. We admired him a lot," said a resident of the village of Granitis Nevrokopiou, the place where the 31-year-old pilot came from.
The funeral is expected to take place at 12:00.
The village of Granitis Nevrokopi, where Efstathios Tsitlakidis was born and raised, has been plunged into mourning. By decision of the mayor, three days of mourning was declared. Today is a half-day and all the residents will be able to be in the church for the last service to the pilot of the Air Force.
At the same time, the Municipality decided:
- That the Municipal Council should attend the exodus procession, which will be held in the Community of Granite at 12:00 in the Church of the Most High Brigades.
- A wreath should be laid by the mayor of Nevrokopi and the Municipal Council, while a wreath will also be laid by the president of the Granite Community.
- To give the last name of the squadron either on a main street of the city or on a large municipal building.
Shortly before 8:00, the first wreaths began to be brought to the Holy Church and, according to Proto Thema, their number exceeds 100.
From the day it became known that Efstathios Tsitlakidis lost his life, the flags are flying at half mast, while, as it became known, the pilot's name is expected to be given either on a central street of the city, or on a large Municipal building.
His co-pilot Marios Touroutsikas, 29, was confirmed dead after his body was recovered from the aircraft’s wreckage in the Ionian Sea on Monday.
National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos announced a three-day period of mourning in the country’s armed forces on Monday.
The last time an F-4 Phantom crashed in Greece was on Mount Parnassus on June 15, 2004. Both pilots lost their lives. Investigations revealed that the aircraft crashed due to an extreme maneuver it made as part of an exercise.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is an American tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed by McDonnell Aircraft for the United States Navy.
Proving highly adaptable, it entered service with the Navy in 1961 before it was adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, and by the mid-1960s it had become a major part of their air arms.
Phantom production ran from 1958 to 1981 with a total of 5,195 aircraft built, making it the most-produced American supersonic military aircraft in history, and cementing its position as an iconic combat aircraft of the Cold War.