More than 100 feared killed in airliner plunge

Elias Hubbard
May 22, 2018

A Cuban-operated airliner with at least 110 people on board crashed into a cassava field just after takeoff from Havana's global airport on Friday.

The crew were reportedly Mexican nationals, with the bulk of the passengers being Cuban nationals although Argentina's foreign ministry has stated that two of its citizens had perished in the accident.

Four people were pulled alive from the wreckage: one died in hospital, while three women remain in critical condition.

The minister told reporters that among the dead were 99 Cubans, six Mexican crewmembers, two passengers from Western Sahara, a Mexico tourist and an Argentine couple.

Friday's crash, the worst in Cuba in almost 30 years, happened at 12:08 p.m. ET, José Ramón Cabañas, the Cuban ambassador to the US, said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, a retired pilot for Cubana wrote on Facebook that another plane rented by his airline from the same company had briefly dropped off radar for unspecified reasons while over the central Cuban city of Santa Clara in 2010 or 2011. "(The customer representative) came in this morning she told us that we might not actually be leaving this afternoon, it could be extended until tomorrow or even possibly towards more the end of the week".

A total of 111 people were on board, including 105 passengers, the island's Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo told local media. Cubana de Aviacion, Cuba's national airline company, had leased the plane from Global Air (Damojh), a Mexican firm.

There were 113 people on board the aircraft in total, including crew members. Other officials have declined to confirm that. Damojh operates three Boeing 737s, two 737-300s and the 737-201 that crashed Friday, according to Mexican officials.

"If we conclude the physical revision and there is nothing wrong with them, no issue, they continue to fly", he said.

Another pilot who used to work for Damojh told Mexican newspaper Milenio he had complained about a lack of adequate maintenance of planes. It said that 64 percent of flights had taken off on time, up from 59 percent the previous year.

- September 4, 1989: A chartered Cubana plane flying from Havana to Milan, Italy, went down shortly after takeoff, killing all 126 people on board, as well as at least two dozen on the ground.

"In flames, here it comes falling toward the ground, and it seems [the pilot] saw it was an area that was too residential and makes a sharp turn", Martinez said.

Damojh declined to comment, while Mexico's Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics said a new audit of the company would be undertaken to ensure it was still 'fulfilling norms'.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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