Cuban airliner with 68 on board crashes

A Cuban airliner with at least 68 people aboard crashed Thursday during a flight, state television said, and initial reports did not indicate whether there were survivors. The passengers included 28 foreigners, reports said.

The Cuban-owned Aero Caribbean twin turboprop aircraft declared an emergency and then lost contact with air traffic controllers, the correspondent for Mexico’s news agency Notimex said.

As Tropical Storm Tomas menaced Cuba offshore, the Aero Caribbean flight departed Santiago de Cuba in the eastern part of the island late Thursday afternoon and was making its way to the capital, Havana, about 450 miles away. It crashed in a central rural area in the province of Sancti Spiritus.

Travelling aboard the aircraft were 40 Cubans — 33 passengers and seven crew members — and 28 foreign passengers of undisclosed nationalities, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported, citing the Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba. The flight originated in Haiti.


Rescuers were rushing to the site, and the government created a commission to investigate the crash, Prensa Latina said.

Western news agencies quoted local hospital officials as saying they were informed there were no survivors.

Reuters quoted a witness describing the wreckage of the ATR-72-212 aircraft as a ball of flame on the side of a mountain.