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Death toll in Cuba plane crash rises to 110

Cuban firefighters attempt to put out the fire on Boeing 737 Cubana de Aviación Flight Number CU972 (XA-UHZ) crashed shortly after take-off (AGENCIES PHOTO)

HAVANA: Cuban officials have recovered one of two black boxes from the passenger plane carrying 110 people which crashed near Havana airport.

Cuban Transport Minister, Adel Yzquierdo asserted that the second device would be found soon.

The aging Boeing 737 Cubana de Aviación Flight Number CU972 (XA-UHZ) crashed shortly after take-off near a railway outside Havana-José Martí International Airport some 20km south of the Cuban Capital, killing 110.

“We’re here for the identification process that could last, depending on the state of the remains, anywhere from a couple of days to more than a week,” read a statement from the Cuban authorities by the time of filing this report.

Experts affirmed the black box; found in good condition, will help investigators determine the cause of the crash.

The remain of the aging Boeing 737 at the crush site 20kms south of Cuban capital, Havana (AGENCIES PHOTO)

The incident ranks as Cuba’s worst air disaster in decades, and two days of national mourning began on Saturday.

Three women survived the crash, but are said to be in a critical condition.

Cuban authorities have launched an investigation into the crash, as rescuers continue to comb through the wreckage site some 20km (12 miles) south of the Cuban capital.

Separately, it was disclosed that 10 Protestant evangelical priests and their spouses were among the crash victims.

Safety concerns

Allegations of previous safety complaints have emerged against the Mexican-based Damojh company, which leased both the Boeing 737 and its crew to Cuba’s flagship state Cubana Airline.

The head of Guyana’s civil aviation body, Cpt Egbert Field, extends condolences to the relative of the plane crash victims (AGENCIES PHOTO)

The head of Guyana’s civil aviation body, Cpt Egbert Field, in a press statement, said that the same plane – which was nearly 40 years old – had been barred from using Guyanese airspace last year after authorities found its crew were overloading luggage on flights in Cuba.

He further affirmed that in one instance Guyanese authorities had discovered suitcases stored in the plane’s toilets.

Meanwhile, a retired pilot for Cubana wrote on Facebook that another plane hired by his airline from the same company had briefly grounded 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.

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