Cuba plane crash: Black box recovered

Cuban officials say they have found one of the two black boxes from a plane that crashed near Havana, killing more than 100 people.

Picture taken at the scene after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana‘s Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018 Photo: AFP

Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo said he hoped the second device will be recovered soon.

The Boeing 737, which was nearly 40 years old, was carrying 105 passengers and six crew members.

Three women were pulled alive from the wreckage near Havana‘s airport. They are said to be in a critical condition.

Two days of national mourning began on Saturday.

The crash is Cuba‘s worst air disaster in decades.

What do we know about the dead?

Most of the passengers killed are believed to be Cubans, though reports say five foreigners and a six-strong Mexican crew were also on board.

Argentina‘s government said two of its nationals – tourists Dora Beatriz Cifuentes and Oscar Hugo Almaras, both in their sixties – were among the dead.

Relatives of the victims have started arriving in Havana to help identify the deceased. Those coming from Holguín – the plane‘s intended destination – and other eastern parts of the island made the 700km (435-mile) trip on buses.

Cuba‘s National Revolutionary Police escorted them to speed their way, EFE news agency reports.

Cuban authorities do not plan to release the full list of the 108 dead until all victims‘ families have been informed.

How did the plane come down?

The Boeing 737-201 crashed at 12:08 (16:08 GMT) on Friday, shortly after taking off from Havana on an internal flight to Holguín.

It‘s too early to say what caused the crash, but eyewitnesses on the ground described seeing the jet burst into flames before crashing into a field close to a wooded area near the airport.

“I saw it taking off,” supermarket worker Jose Luis told the AFP news agency. “All of a sudden, it made a turn, and went down. We were all amazed.”

“We heard an explosion and then saw a big cloud of smoke go up,” Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the crash site, told Reuters.

Mexico‘s transport department said on its website that “during take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground”.

Boeing said that it was ready to send a technical team to Cuba, “as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities”.

A US trade embargo has been in force against Cuba for many decades.

What about the survivors?

Four people initially survived the crash but one died after being transported to hospital, the director of Havana‘s Calixto Garcia hospital, Carlos Alberto Martinez, told Reuters.

The three survivors are all women, according to Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma: one aged between 18 and 25, one in her thirties and the third aged 39.

“She is alive but very burnt and swollen,” one of the women‘s relatives at the hospital told Reuters.