Castro speaks at funeral for 8 Cuban airline victims
HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro told mourners at Thursday's
funeral of eight Cubana Airlines crew members killed in Guatemala that the crew's
experience prevented a much larger disaster.
Castro made a surprise visit to the funeral, during which crew members
were given full
military honors for burial at the Armed Forces section of Havana's Colon Cemetery.
Also in attendance was Vice President Carlos Lage and Esteban Lazo, first
secretary of Havana for the Communist Party of Cuba.
Although the cause of the accident remains under investigation, Castro
that quick thinking by Capt. Jorge Toledo and co-pilot Cecilio Hernandez
assured that more people did not die.
Buried along with the captain and co-pilot on Thursday were fellow crew
members Pedro Pablo Concepcion, Herzio Jimenez, Jose Leyva, Moises
Borges and Ovidio Fonte, and Johanna Toledo, a stewardess and also the
Castro said 18 people died in the crash: 15 on board the plane -- eight
members, two Guatemalan medical students and five other passengers --
and three on the ground.
The casualty reports from Guatemala have varied since the Tuesday
accident; the highest toll was 26.
The government-owned Cubana de Aviacion DC-10 jetliner had 314
people on board when it crashed Tuesday morning in the working class
neighborhood of La Libertad at the end of the runway. More than 70 people
Most of those on board were Guatemalan medical students studying at
Havana's Latin American Medical School and returning home to spend
Christmas with their families.
Guatemalan airport officials at first said the plane skidded on the rain-soaked
runway. But air traffic director Mario Grajeda later said the plane appeared
to be approaching normally for landing on instruments, but overshot the
The plane's two black boxes -- the flight data and voice recorders -- will
flown to Washington to be examined.
Cuban and French technicians will participate in the investigation. The
was rented from a French company.