Cuban president offers condolences to victims families after jet carrying 104 passengers and six crew crashed into field near Havana airport
More than 100 people have died after an aging Boeing 737 carrying 104 passengers and six crew crashed into a nearby field soon after taking off from Havana’s main airport.
In a televised address on Friday afternoon, the Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, offered his condolences to victims’ households and told an investigation into the disaster had been launched.
Witnesses said that the 39 -year old aircraft veered back towards the airport less than a minute after takeoff from Jose Marti international airport, but became ensnared in electricity cables before crashing down.
” When we were checking in, we heard an explosion, the illuminates used to go in the airport and we assured black smoking rising- and they told us a plane had crashed ,” Argentine tourist Brian Horanbuena told the Associated Press at the airport.
At the scene of the crash near the town of Santiago de las Vegas, thick black smoking plumed out of the torn wreckage which was scattered across a field of cassava.
“It’s a disaster,” a military official told the AP.
Three survivors arrived at the Calixto Garcia hospital in Havana in critical condition.
” She is alive but very burnt and swollen ,” one distressed relative told Reuters at the hospital.
Other family members gathered at the airport where they were rushed to a private region to await news.” My daughter is 24. My God, she’s only 24 ,” exclaimed Beatriz Pantoja, whose daughter Leticia was on board the plane.
The plane was on a domestic flight, heading for the city of eastern city of Holguin, and most of the passengers were Cuban, according to local media.
As tourism has boomed in Cuba in recent years, package vacations in Holguin province’s beaches have become increasingly popular.
The 737 was operated by the state-run airline Cubana de Aviacion but had been leased from a small Mexican charter company called Damojh Aerolineas, which also operates as Global Air Mexico.
The plane was built in 1979, according to Mexican authorities, who also confirmed that five Mexican crew members were among the dead.
” We heard an detonation and then ensure a big cloud of smoke come up ,” said Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the accident site in the agricultural municipality of Boyeros, 20 km( 12 miles) south of Havana.
Cubana has placed many of its planes out of service because of upkeep problems in recent months.
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