Reports: Plane carrying 104 passengers crashes after takeoff from airport in Cuba
Cubana officials and firefighters respond to the scene of a plane crash near Havana on Friday. (Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images) May 18 at 2:53 PM Email the author
A passenger jet with more than 100 people on board crashed shortly after takeoff from Havanaâs international airport Friday, according to Cuban media and witnesses.
The Cuban state-run newspaper Granma reported that the plane, a Boeing 737-200 leased by the national airline, Cubana de Aviacion, was carrying 104 passengers and a foreign crew.
Granma reported that three people survived the crash, which it said occurred at 12:08 p.m. Eastern time.
Images posted on social media purported to show the crash site m inutes after the plane went down, with gray smoke visible in the distance from inside the terminal of Jose MartÃ International Airport.
A schedule showed that the plane was designated as Flight 972, bound for Holguin in the eastern part of Cuba.
Cuban television reported that ambulances and firefighters were responding to the crash scene about 12 miles south of Havana near the village of Santiago de las Vegas. The village is a few miles southeast of the airport.
The plane came down in a farm field and appeared heavily damaged and burned, the Associated Press reported. Firefighters sprayed water on its smoldering remains.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel and other government officials rushed to the site, along with a large number of emergency medical workers and ambulances, AP said. It said residents of the rural area reported seeing some survivors being taken away in ambulances.
Cubana de Aviacion has taken many of its aging planes out of service in re cent months because of mechanical problems.
There were conflicting reports on who owned and operated the plane.
Mercedes Vazquez, Cubaâs director of air transportation, told Cubadebate, a state-run news outlet, that the flight was operated by a Mexican company called Global Air. Cuban television initially reported that the aircraft belonged to Blue Panorama Airlines. Blue Panorama, an Italian airline, later issued a statement saying it was not involved.
Cubana has been relying heavily on aircraft rented from other companies since a number of its Russian-made planes were grounded for lack of spare parts.
The spare-parts issue has grounded most of Cubanaâs Antonov 148 aircraft, which account for six of the companyâs 14 airplanes.
Two U.S. government â" the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board â" and investigators from Boeing could assist in the investigation if invited by Cuban authorities. It is routi ne for U.S. investigators and the airplane manufacturer to help with investigations anywhere in the world when a U.S.-made plane crashes.
Boeing said in a statement Friday, âWe are aware of news reports out of Cuba and are closely monitoring the situation.â
Ashley Halsey III, Nick Miroff, Anthony Faiola and Brian Murphy contributed to this report.
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