Cuba Plane Crash: Black Boxes under Investigation in U.S.

Cuban Minister of Transport, Adel Yzquierdo, informed today that the black boxes of the Boeing-737 aircraft of the Mexican company Damojh, which crashed on the Caribbean island on May 18, are being investigated in the United States.

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'We still do not know the causes, because the black boxes are in the United States, three of our people are also working there to know the problems that the plane could have, and that can take months,' Yzquierdo stressed at the Havana Convention Center.

We will contact the families once again to explain some things they should know, said the minister when speaking in the permanent work commission of the National Assembly of People's Power (Parliament).

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On May 18, a Boeing-737 aircraft of the Mexican company Damojh crashed at noon in Havana with 113 passengers and crew on board, leaving only one survivor who remains in critical condition and under observation.

  • Published in Cuba

“Few days have passed and I am still shocked”

His workplace is located close to where the plane crash occurred. On May 18, Raul Mejias Catasus was one of the first men to attend to the place of the fatal accident. A Boeing 737-200 crashed after taking off from the International Airport Jose Marti, in Havana.

As civil engineer, he has worked for several years now in the Contractor Company of Aviation Works (CCOA), located near the site of the accident, which allowed him to get quickly to the crash site.

Raul Mejias agreed to give an interview to CubaSi and detailed that when it all happened, he had just walked into his office and “all of a sudden the walls, roof, chairs, and table started shaking as in an earthquake.”

“Lights went out right away. Certainly, the plane had crashed over high-voltage cables. Someone told me that a plane had crashed. Then, I quickly ran into the path that led to the area.”

“This Boeing 737-200 is characterized for having a loud noise compared to others of the same category. And it really impressed me that such noise increased so quickly.”

“I heard three different and mixed noises: the engine noise and other two. One of them sounded like releasing energy and the other as if a welding machine were being used.

Aviation fan —Raul belongs to the Flight Simulation Group from the Aviation Club of Cuba—, he confessed he still cannot believe what happened even though few days have passed.

“I was stunned. I got home and started to flight the simulator in order to have an idea of what had happened. I did hundreds of flight simulations in a Boeing 737.”

“Afterwards, I looked into Google Maps. I saw the exact position from where it took off, the plane path analysis. I tried to find any explanation to such sudden turn. I think the pilot was trying to go back to the airport. It was the absolute despair of a crew that could not hold the stability. Nobody knows what happened in that cockpit. Not to mention the passengers.”

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

ETECSA is Helping Mourners too

The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) reinforces and facilitates communications for the families of the victims of the Boeing 737-200, which crashed on Friday with 113 people on board.

Quick and executively, following the guidelines of the Executive President of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA), Engineer Mayra Arevich Marín, ETECSA freed the calls made from the public phones, where these people stayed, as well as the medical staff, authorities and specialists linked to the clarification of the sad event.

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ETECSA workers at Tulipán Hotel, which accomodates the relatives of the victims of the plane crash that killed 110 people.

Likewise, and as it was right in such a circumstance, in which they all join shoulders, the company gave these people a recharge GSM (mobile recharge coupon) coupon free of charge.

“In every hand that we reached out to deliver a coupon, we tried to leave the warmth of our solidarity”, pointed out on his Facebook, Javier Ferreira Herrera, head of the Commercial Department of the North Territorial Management of the Havana Division.

Like him, other ETECSA workers decided to support the mourners with the logistical possibilities of the company from that first night. That was, for example, the case of Leidy Díaz Castillo, commercial executive of the Mini Sale Spot of Cerro and Boyeros.

“She hadn’t had time to reach her house back from work”, she tells Cubasi, when a call indicated to her that a new mission awaited her, this time at the Legal Medicine Institute. Firstly there and then at Calixto Garcia Hospital, she delivered the free cards that would allow those people overwhelmed by the tragedy to continue making phone calls.

From that night, Leidy recalls the faces of silent pain that watched her, when she offered them that aid, minimal compared with such huge losses. “I watched their speechless faces and thought about my 20-year-old daughter”, she says.

From social networks, many ETECSA workers have echoed both solidarity and support: “I did not expect less from our enterprise, giving support to those who need it, I am proud of being part of it, thank you!!!”, Eddy David Amaya Abreu says.

Zaymi Blanco Javier, on behalf of all Cubans is grateful for the attention that is offered right now to the victims’ relatives and adds: “I am sure that all commercial executives of the company are willing to collaborate at any time they need us. My condolences to the relatives and thank you again”.

Among the condolences and support phrases that continue to flood Facebook people can also read the one posted by another ETECSA worker, Elisa Alfaro, which could well summarize the feeling that encourages all Cubans today: “In Havana, in Holguin and throughout #Cuba, ETECSA joins the pain of all and as always it puts its resources and services in terms of those who need them before an event of this magnitude. We facilitate services, doctors fight to save the survivors, the people acted with discipline, the press informs minute by minute…., this is #Cuba, this is #ETECSA, this is how we are. #StrengthCuba”.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Cuban Experts Identify 50 Fatal Victims of Air Disaster

Cuban experts identified 50 fatal victims of the air disaster occurred last Friday in this capital, today reported the director of the Institute of Legal Medicine, Sergio Rabell.

In statements to the press, the official said that in the last hours they identified 10 other people, five of them foreigners (four of the six Mexican crew members and one of the two Sahrawis living on the island).

According to Rabell, the rapid progress in identifying the remains of the tragedy is due in large part to the experience of the specialists working in the case of the Boeing 737-200, leased by Cubana de Aviacion, which crashed last Friday with 113 people on board.

He also highlighted the tenacity of forensic experts, anthropologists, criminologists and other experts at the Institute of Legal Medicine, and recalled that all the bags with the bodies were already examined and the belongings of the fatal victims were classified.

Only three women -all Cubans- survived the disaster, but one of them, 23-year-old Gretell Landrove, died on the eve, so the total death toll rises to 111.

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Mexican Gov't Investigates, Suspends Damojh Airlines

The Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT) initiated an investigation into Global Air, registered under the corporate name of Damojh Airlines, and suspended its activities as a result of the aviation accident in Havana.

'Derived from the unfortunate accident that occurred on May 18, the company Damojh Airlines was notified of the start of a major extraordinary verification, which meets the objectives of verifying that the current operating conditions comply with the regulations,' the federal dependency issued last night in a statement.

The SCT said it intends to collect information to help with the investigation of the unfortunate event.

'In the same way, the company is being notified of the temporary suspension of activities while the verification is being carried out,' it stated.

The Ministry explained that this decision was taken given the events and despite the fact that the company has been subject to annual verifications, most recently in November 2017; their aircraft have renewed their airworthiness certificates every two years and the last ones were granted in August and October 2017.

It recalled that by virtue of the incident that occurred on November 4, 2010, in which an aircraft of the company carried out an emergency landing in Puerto Vallarta due to a failure of the nose landing gear, the company Damohj Airlines was subjected to an extraordinary verification.

As a result of this, a suspension of operations was applied from November 11 to December 18, 2010, lifted upon being accredited that they resolved the observations made.

Similarly, as a result of the complaint filed by Captain Marco Aurelio Hernandez in October 2013, a greater extraordinary verification was carried out from November 4 to 8 of that year and one of the aircraft was suspended until the documentation was presented to meet the verification requirements, which took place on January 10, 2014.

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Good Student and Classmate. That is the way Grettell Landrove is remembered

Grettel Landrove Font was known to be an excellent student, always caring about her classmates. A disciplined girl determined to overcome any obstacle. She was one of the three survivors of the plane crash. Sadly, she passed away this Monday.

She would be graduated from Industrial Engineering at the Polytechnic University Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) this year. In her sixth year, she was immersed in the conclusion of her thesis on the redesign of the Hotel Tryp Habana Libre.

Classmates, professors, and management board of the above-mentioned university, leaders of the Federation of University Students (FEU), among others, shared the sad hours with Grettell’s family and friends in the funeral ceremonies held at the funeral parlor located in Calzada and K Streets.

Ariacne Jimenez and Ania Diaz told CAN that both joined Grettell as a team. All had the same professor, thesis tutor, and subject.

Her death has been a devastating blow. We are deeply sad at the university. Those who go to know her in the year and a half she lived here in Havana after coming from the University of Holguin, can attest she was intelligent, easy-going girl, full of life and dreams.

We were three Grettells in the classroom. And every time we faced an exam, and some comments led you think one of us had failed, you can bet Landrove Font did not. That is why it hurts so much that one month prior to get her degree as Industrial Engineer, she cannot fulfill such dream, Grettel Gakin said.

Karen Lopez, Claudia Pena, and William Castellanos stated that she had a good-natured mood. She was friendly and did her best to obtain good results in every test. She sometimes asked to do some of the exams in an extraordinary period so she could honor her work.

The young girl, one of the three survivors of the plane crash that occurred in Havana last Friday, was hospitalized at the Intensive Care Unit of the Calixto Garcia Hospital, as she had severe brain injuries.

At the time of her death, she was extremely critical and the multidisciplinary medical team could not reverse the situation, according to the official statement of the Ministry of Public Health.

With Grettell’s death, the number of victims rises to 111.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz//CubaSi Translation Staff

Cuba united in grief

The Cuban people and authorities have mobilized to provide victims’ loved ones with all the support at this difficult time - Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, participated in the last day of the Response to Disasters Popular Exercise, Meteoro 2018. 

- Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, participated in the last day of the Response to Disasters Popular Exercise, Meteoro 2018.

- The Cuban President recognized the capacity of the Civil Defense System and the popular participation in these events, as well as the high level of preparedness shown.

- Díaz-Canel highlighted the solidarity shown by the Cuban people to the relatives of victims of the plane crash in Havana, Friday, May 18, and the will to create the conditions to attend to them.

- He noted that the Meteoro 2018 exercise allowed for the updating of plans regarding the measures to be adopted in disaster situations, based on the experiences following Hurricane Irma.

- Díaz-Canel, together with the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, José Ramón Machado Ventura, and Party and government authorities of Havana, visited on Saturday, May 19, the relatives of the victims of the plane crash.

- It is important that they know they are not alone, the Party and the government supports them, stated Salvador Valdés Mesa, First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, in a meeting with the loved ones of the victims of the air disaster.

- A total of 113 people were onboard the aircraft, 58 female and 55 male. Six were Mexican crew members and 107 passengers. Of the latter, 102 were Cuban citizens, three were foreign tourists (two Argentines and one Mexican), and two Saharans with temporary residency in Cuba. 110 people died.

- The three survivors, who have been identified, have highly complex injuries. They are in a critical condition and the prognosis is guarded, but they are being attended by a highly specialized team.

- At press time, the remains of 33 of the victims had been identified.

- The relatives of the Mexican crew have traveled to Cuba. The same procedure was followed with them as with the other relatives: biological samples were taken and interviews conducted as part of the detailed information collection process.

- The Ambassador of Mexico to Cuba, together with the victims’ relatives, traveled to the Institute of Legal Medicine, and ratified his confidence in Cuba in this type of work.

- The commission created to investigate the case is rigorously following protocol, according to the established norms.

- The aircraft’s black box was recovered and is in a good condition. Data is still being sought, explained Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, minister of transport.

- “We are now proceeding to collect the aggregate data that, although impaired, maintains its configuration and permits revision in secure airport institutions. From there, specialists will start work on each of the systems,” stated Armando L. Daniel López, president of Cuban Civil Aeronautics Institute and the commission created to investigate the accident.

- Two Mexican investigators are working at the site of the accident, as the plane was registered to Mexico, and European and U.S. experts are also expected to arrive, the latter representing the manufacturers of the Boeing 737-200 aircraft.

- Heads of State, personalities and citizens around the world have voiced their solidarity with the Cuban people following the tragedy.

In Possession of Relatives Identified Remains of Air Disaster in Cuba

The director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Cuba, Sergio Rabell, stated today that 36 relatives were in possession of the remains identified until the moment of the air disaster ocurred last Friday in this capital.

In statements to journalists, the official said that experts continue to work to establish the identity of the other 74 fatal victims of the accident in the Boeing 737-200, leased by Cubana de Aviación, which with 113 people on board crashed shortly after taking off from the José Martí International airport.

Rabell offered details of the process at the Institute's headquarters and assured that 'when we give a positive identification, we are 100% certaint that the body we are delivering is what we say it is'.

When the person is identified, a group moves to the place where the family members are so that they do not have to come and to alleviate their pain, a team that includes specialists, Civil Registry authorities in charge of preparing the documents, psychologists and psychiatrists, among others, he pointed out.

He also explained that a system of at least two daily parts has been created to keep both Cuban and foreign relatives informed.

  • Published in Cuba
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