Death Toll in Cuba’s Plane Crash Rises to 111
The death toll in one of the most deadly aviation accidents in Cuban history rose to a total of 111 victims Monday night.
Grettel Landrove, a 23-year-old Cuban student, succumbed to her injuries from Friday’s crash in a hospital in Havana. Landrove suffered “severe traumatic lesions” and died on Monday, according to Cuban state-run media reports.
Two survivors of the crash remain in critical condition — both are Cuban women with severe injuries such as burns and other trauma that have a high risk of complications, the state-run media outlets reported. All other passengers and crew on the aircraft perished in the crash. Among the deceased are 100 Cubans, seven Mexicans, two Argentines and two Sahrawis (a disputed region in Western Sahara).
Meanwhile, Mexico has suspended operations of the aviation company that had been wet leasing the aircraft used in the fatal crash to Cuba’s national airline, Cubana de Aviación. Mexico’s National Civil Aviation Authority announced it is performing an operational audit of the company, Damojh, to ensure its “current operating conditions continue meeting regulations” and help gather additional information for investigators in the wake of the crash, NBC News reports. The investigation will be lead by Cuban authorities, with assistance from both Mexico and the US.
Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, which manufactured the plane and the engines, will assist in a technical probe.
Investigators have been able to recover the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorders over the weekend.
Both Damojh and the plane involved in the crash, a Boeing 737-200 built in 1979, had previously received safety complaints and had been put under investigation. One complaint resulted in the 39-year-old 737 aircraft being banned from Guyanese airspace in 2017 after the Damojh crew had repeatedly overloaded luggage exceeding the safety regulation on flights to Cuba, Guyana aviation officials told the AP.
Damojh’s operations were also audited for a month in 2010 after a problem with the landing gear on another one of the airline’s planes forced an emergency landing in Puerto Vallarta. It was again investigated for two months in 2013 when a former pilot raised concerns about the company’s inadequate maintenance standards for its aircraft.
Under the wet lease arrangement, Damajh was completely responsible for the aircraft’s maintenance. Mexican aviation authorities said that the company passed a safety maintenance verification in November 2017.
Friday’s crash happened shortly after takeoff from Havana’s José Martí International Airport (HAV). The flight, which was bound for the eastern Cuban city of Holguín (HOG) suddenly veered and crashed in a field nearby the HAV runway.
Featured image by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images.