74 Die in Crash of Cuban Jet in Ecuador
QUITO, Ecuador -- At least 74 people died and 26 were injured
Saturday when a Cuban airliner crashed into a soccer field and
exploded while trying to take off from Quito's international airport,
officials and witnesses said.
The Red Cross
said it had recovered 74 bodies, five of them of children
who had been playing soccer in the field, and had helped 8 survivors from
the crash of the Russian-made Cubana de Aviación plane, which was
bound for the Ecuadorean coastal city of Guayaquil.
A spokesman for
Ecuador's Civil Defense office said his team had pulled
out 70 badly burned bodies.
"But there are
survivors," a rescue worker said. "I personally rescued one
survivor, and I know there are others."
de Aviación has yet to make an official statement on the
crash, early reports indicated that the flight had been carrying 80
passengers, many of them Ecuadorean.
The plane, a
blue, white and red Russian Tupolev, had arrived with
tourists aboard on Saturday morning from Havana. From Guayaquil it
was supposed to head back to Havana.
survivors said the jet seemed to have engine problems
before the accident.
It tried and
failed twice to take off, and on the third attempt, was forced
to slam on the brakes when it could not get enough altitude as it neared
the runway's end, they said.
The plane crashed
through the airport's fence into a field, killing two
passers-by and the five children playing soccer.
A Red Cross workers
told reporters that the accident was evidence of
the riskiness of Quito's airport, situated in the northern part of the Andean
city in a highly populated zone.
The Quito crash
came just over a year after another Cubana de Aviación
plane plunged into the sea off Cuba, killing all 44 people on board,
including 6 Spaniards and 2 Brazilians.
twin-engined Antonov-24 apparently suffered an engine
failure shortly after takeoff on July 11, 1997, from the eastern city of
Santiago de Cuba en route to Havana.
airline disaster was in September 1989, when a plane
crashed near Havana after taking off for Italy and killed all 126 people