Black box found in Ecuador plane crash
QUITO, Ecuador (CNN) -- Investigators sifting through the charred remains
Cuban airline that crashed on takeoff in Ecuador recovered the plane's black box
Sunday and searched for other clues to the disaster that killed 79 people.
Police said the box will be taken to Cuba to help determine the cause of
While firefighters on Sunday sprayed jets of water on the smoking ruins
prevent additional explosions, authorities cordoned off the crash site and
searched for a missing local resident.
It was not immediately clear if a charred body found Sunday was that of
The Cubana de Aviacion plane, a Russian-made Tupolev, plowed through
airport fences, slammed into two homes, clipped a mechanic's workshop
and crashed into a soccer field 200 yards (180 meters) beyond the end of
the runway at Quito's airport. Then it caught fire and exploded.
Ninety people were aboard the craft in the Saturday crash, which was
headed to the coastal town of Guayaquil, then to Havana.
Five children playing soccer on the field were killed, along with five
people on the ground, including the man whose auto repair shop was hit.
Of the airliner's passengers and crew, 69 died, civil aviation department
hospital officials said.
Twenty-one passengers reportedly survived Saturday's crash.
Crew, aviation officials criticized by survivors
Survivors and relatives of the dead criticized the plane's crew and
Ecuadorean civil aeronautics officials for apparently allowing the plane to
take off despite engine trouble.
"How is it possible that they allowed a plane to take off after the
engine failed to start five times?" asked Jorge Crespo, whose
nephew was killed in the crash.
"Before we heard the roar of the crash, we felt the plane rise a bit
and burst in flames. There were three explosions," said one of the survivors,
Hernan Boada, 27, of Cuba. "I saw other people wrapped in flames jump
from the plane."
Juan Falcon, a 75-year-old passenger who survived the crash, told reporters
he was traveling on vacation.
"When the plane was picking up speed I heard a crack, the plane put on
brakes and everything caught fire," he said. "Since the flames were on the
side, I threw myself to the ground. That's what saved me."
Alvaro Martinez of Chile, who survived with minor injuries, said even though
the engine made a loud sound before takeoff, the pilot insisted on flying the
"This is a case of professional negligence that should be condemned
internationally. It is not possible that a pilot --that knows his plane has
problems -- attempts to take off," he said.
The plane's entire 14-person crew died. Two flight attendants helped
passengers escape from the burning plane but were enveloped by the fire
before they could escape, survivors told local newspapers.
Gen. Osvaldo Dominguez, director of the civil aviation office, said at
non-Ecuadoreans were killed, including Cubans, Chileans, Italians,
Spaniards, one Argentine and one Jamaican.
President: Airport location too populous
The jetliner barely missed a heavily traveled avenue at the end of the
runway in a middle-class residential neighborhood.
Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad went to the crash site and said he was
asking investigators to complete studies as soon as possible for building an airport
outside the capital.
"I deeply lament the tragedy," Mahuad said. "This is one more reason to
airport as soon as possible."
Nearby residents have often complained about the noise and the possibility
of accidents at the current airport.
In 1984, an Ecuadorean cargo plane slammed into a neighborhood beyond
the end of the runway after failing to gain altitude, killing 65 people.
And in 1996, a Brazilian FLY airlines plane carrying a Brazilian soccer
crashed into airport walls after one of the jet turbines flamed out and the
crew aborted the takeoff. One player was slightly injured.
The Cubana plane used the same takeoff route as the other two planes, and
all three fell in roughly the same spot.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.