Cuba begins to bury its dead as questions raised over plane crash

  • Cuba begins to bury its dead as questions raised over plane crash

Cuba begins to bury its dead as questions raised over plane crash

A Boeing 737 operated by state airline Cubana crashed on takeoff from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana on Friday with 104 people on board.

The plane, Cubana de Aviación Flight 972, an over 40 year-old Boeing 737 crashed shortly after take off from José Martí Airport in Havana just after 18.00 EEST and exploded.

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.

Three Cuban women survived the crash, but are still in a critical condition.

At morgues and in church services, Cubans are mourning loved ones who died in the country's worst air disaster in three decades.

The passenger plane, on a domestic flight to Holguin in eastern Cuba, crashed at 12:08 pm.

All six crew members on board were Mexican and the majority of the passengers were Cuban, with five foreigners reported to be among them.

The circumstances echoed those of Cubana de Aviacion's worst air disaster almost 30 years ago, in September 1989, when an Ilyushin 62 plane crashed on takeoff from Havana as it was headed to Italy.

The plane was reportedly leased to Cubana de Aviación from Mexican airline Aerolineas Damojh, also known as Global Air.

Last year, a Cuban military plane crashes into a hillside in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on board.

Cubana de Avacion was wet leasing the aircraft -where the airline leases the plane as well as the crew - in a move the country's Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez attributed to the United States trade embargo against the island. Mexican authorities said Damojh had permits needed to lease its aircraft and had passed a November 2017 verification of its maintenance program.

The mother and child were the first of 67 Holguin residents to be brought home for burial out of the 110 people who died in the fiery crash in Havana over the weekend. He declined to comment further.

The company has come under scrutiny due to allegations of previous safety problems and complaints by former employees. "We can not yet confirm whether U.S. Citizens were on board", the official said in a statement.

As a result, Cuban officials suspended a captain and co-pilot for "serious technical knowledge issues" and the aviation security authority issued a formal recommendation that Cubana stop renting planes and crews from the Mexican company, Martinez wrote.

He said that with Damojh, "the formula here is that they take care of the maintenance of the aircraft".

Mexico said it had sent two civil aviation specialists to help in the investigation.