A Boeing 737-200 crashed today just after takeoff from Havana, Cuba’s, Jose Marti International Airport. There were 104 people on board, including five children. Cuban state-run newspaper Granma reported that at least three passengers survived, but were in critical condition. Cuba’s national air carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, had rented the airplane from a small Mexican airline, Global Air. Global Air confirmed there were six Mexican crew members aboard. Officials have not confirmed if any of the passengers were U.S. citizens.
The flight was traveling to the eastern city of Holguin when it crashed in a farm field of yuca plants just south of Havana near the village of Santiago de las Vegas. Local residents could see a large plume of smoke rising above the crash. The cause of the crash is unknown, but is under investigation.
It was Cuba’s third high-profile, deadly air crash since 2010. Cubana has previously had to ground some of its fleet, due to aircrafts’ age-related safety issues. The crash comes just one day after the country’s First Vice-President, Salvador Valdes Mesa, met with other “Cuban officials to discuss improvements in its heavily criticized service.”
Cubana’s director general, Capt. Hermes Hernandez Dumas, attributed the nation’s aircraft problems, in part, to the U.S. trade embargo.
“While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, we know that aging aircraft sometimes develop flaws and deficiencies that are not easily detectable,” said Mike Andrews, principal at Beasley Allen Law firm and author of Aviation Litigation & Accident Investigation. “This is why it is crucial for the aviation industry, including manufacturers, pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, to adhere to the highest possible standards at all times.”