Solidarity and investigations after the accident. Cuban authorities are investigating the air crash, with 113 people on board, occurred Friday at noon in Havana, the Cuban capital. The domestic flight was going from Havana to Holguin, on the eastern side of the island, some 700 km distance.
The Boeing 737-200 hired by Cubana de Aviacion went down moments after taking off in a farming area close to the Jose Marti International Airport. Cuban Transport Minister Adel Izquierdo stated to national and foreign reporters Sunday that the specialists are investigating the possible cause of the crash.
Izquierdo added that Boeing company representatives will be arriving on the island, in addition to international experts and insurers. “We will give them all the needed things to do their work, in line with the protocols and international standards,” he said.
For his part, Deputy Health Minister Alfredo Gonzalez reported that up to Saturday afternoon 15 of the 110 fatal victims of the disaster (five minors and 10 adults) had been identified.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel visite the crash site on Friday, as well as the hospital where survivors are being treated. Díaz-Canel reiterated the condolences of the Cuban government and people to those affected by the tragedy.
The Boeing-737 and its crew were leased by Cuba’s airline, Cubana de Aviacion, from the Mexican-based charter company, Damojh, that has allegations of previous safety complaints.
The head of Guyana’s civil aviation body, Cpt. Egbert Field, told the Associated Press news agency the same plane – which was nearly 40 years old – had been barred from Guyanese airspace last year after authorities found its crew was overloading luggage on flights in Cuba. In one instance, the news agency reports, Guyanese authorities had discovered suitcases stored in the plane’s toilets.
Meanwhile, a retired pilot for Cubana wrote on Facebook that another plane rented by his airline from the same company had briefly dropped off the radar for unspecified reasons while over the central Cuban city of Santa Clara in 2010 or 2011. The captain and co-pilot of that flight were later suspended for “problems and serious lack of technical knowledge,” said Ovidio Martinez Lopez, who worked for Cubana for more than 40 years.
Another pilot who used to work for Damojh told Mexican newspaper Milenio he had complained about a lack of adequate maintenance of planes.
“I experienced several incidents at this company, like engine failure or the electrical system went when we took off from Mexico on one occasion”, Marco Aurelio Hernandez was quoted as saying.
The company has yet to comment on the allegations.
Izquierdo on Sunday updated the official death toll to 110 and listed the nationalities of the victims: 99 Cubans, 6 Mexican crew members, 1 Mexican tourist, 2 Argentinians (a couple), and 2 passengers from Western Sahara (a disputed territory annexed by Morocco after Spain withdrew in 1975).
Meanwhile, the three survivors remain in critical condition with serious burns. “My daughter is a fighter, she’s strong, she’ll save herself,” the mother of a 23-year-old survivor, Amparo Font, told Reuters news agency.
Cuban investigators said that they have recovered one of two “black boxes” and is said to be in good condition.