Scores Killed as Cuban Jet Crashes in Ecuador
By Gustavo Oviedo
QUITO, Ecuador, Aug. 29—At least 77 people were killed and 39
injured today when a Cuban airliner crashed into a soccer field and
exploded while taking off from Quito's international airport, officials said.
Among those killed when the plane crashed through the airport's fence and
into the field were five children playing soccer.
Gen. Oswaldo Dominguez, head of Ecuador's civil aviation department,
said 68 of 90 people aboard the Cubana de Aviacion flight to Guayaquil
died in the crash and nine Ecuadoreans were killed on the soccer field.
Fifteen people aboard the plane survived, he said, and seven were
There were 76 passengers and 14 crew members on board, Dominguez
said. At least 19 foreigners were killed, including Cubans, Chileans,
Italians, Spaniards, one Argentine and one Jamaican. The injured, he said,
were most Ecudoreans. There were no reports of Americans on the plane.
"The only thing we have recorded at the control tower is the plane's
permission to take off and then the crew's acceptance to take off. There is
nothing recorded after that," Dominguez said.
Passenger Juan Falcon, 75, said the flight had arrived earlier today from
Cuba and was heading to the coastal town of Guayaquil. The red, white
and blue plane was then scheduled to return to Havana.
"I was on vacation. We arrived at eight this morning from Cuba and
stopped here [Quito] to go to Guayaquil. When the plane was picking up
speed I heard a 'crack,' the plane put on its brakes and everything caught
fire," he said.
Survivors and witnesses said the jet seemed to have engine problems
before the accident. They said the plane tried and failed twice to take off.
On the third attempt, the pilot slammed on the brakes when the plane
could not get enough altitude as it neared the runway's end. The plane
crashed into a nearby field.
"People were screaming everywhere. We did what we could and pulled
out six survivors with some wounds. It was tremendous, the plane
exploded," witness Luis Valenzuela said.
Reuters added from Havana:
News of the crash spread slowly, with Cuban state media waiting several
hours before releasing the first reports.
At Havana airport, relatives and friends of the passengers and crew
members arrived to greet the plane, due in at 7:30 p.m. local time. Many
burst into tears upon learning what had happened.
"They were young girls. They were my friends. I'm so sorry," said a
weeping Miriam Santana, a flight attendant on another Cuban flight who
was waiting for her colleagues' arrival at the Jose Marti international
Like others waiting at the airport, Santana had no official confirmation
who among the plane's 90 passengers and crew had perished and who had
Tamara Aguirre, cousin of a crew member, cried out in anguish when she
realized her relative may have died. "My cousin was coming on that flight. .
. . No, no, it can't be!," she said, sobbing in an airport walkway.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company