Cuba passenger plane crash kills all 68 people on board

Media caption,
The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana: "There are no reports of any survivors"

A Cuban passenger plane has crashed in the centre of the country, killing all 68 people on board, officials say.

The state-run Aerocaribbean aircraft had been flying from the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba to Havana.

The passengers included 28 foreigners. The other 33 passengers and seven crew members were all Cuban. There is no word on the cause of the crash.

However, both the data and voice flight recorders have now been located, investigators say.

"The black box and the voice recorder of the crashed plane... were found, so the investigation that is under way will have the basic elements to work with," Rolando Diaz, a prosecutor, told local media.

The French-built ATR twin turboprop went down late on Thursday local time in mountains near the town of Guasimal in Santi Spiritus province. Many of the 61 passengers it was carrying are believed to have been tourists.

A Civil Aviation Authority statement said the foreigners on the passenger list included nine Argentines, seven Mexicans, three Dutch citizens, two Germans, two Austrians, a French citizen, an Italian, a Spaniard, a Venezuelan and a Japanese citizen.

The twice-weekly flight 883 had originated in Port-au-Prince in Haiti and stopped over in Santiago.

The pilot reported an emergency before contact was lost.

Emergency crews and local residents had to use bulldozers to cut through thick vegetation to reach the crash scene, Cuban media say.

They pulled bodies from the wreckage but found no-one alive. One eyewitness described the crash site as "a ball of flame in the middle of the mountain".

It is not clear if bad weather was a factor in the crash. A tropical storm warning had been issued in Santiago de Cuba province where the plane took off.

One local resident said it was clear the plane was in difficulties before the crash.

"We saw it when it already had problems and was flying low," Miguel Garcia, a 68-year-old farmer, told the Agence France-Press news agency.

"At the moment, aviation and regional authorities are gathering the facts and details and have created a commission to investigate such a regrettable accident," the Civil Aviation Authority statement said.

News agencies report that the crash is the deadliest in Cuba since 3 September 1989 when a Soviet-built Ilyushin-62 heading for Milan crashed after take-off from Havana killing all 126 people on board and 40 on the ground.

The last passenger plane to crash on the island was an Antonov-2 which went down in Santa Clara province in March 2002, killing all 16 people on board.

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