Cubans probing plane crash that killed 68

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By Rigoberto Diaz, AFP

GUASIMAL, Cuba — Cuban investigators on Saturday probed the country’s worst plane crash in two decades, in which all 68 people on board, including 28 foreigners, had been killed. On Friday, the investigators found the “black box” voice and data recorders of the Cuban airliner that crashed in central Cuba Thursday, 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Havana. Police used a bulldozer to clear vegetation from the debris of the domestic AeroCaribbean aircraft, which crashed in the mountainous Sancti Spiritus region after the pilot reported an emergency. “We saw it when it already had problems and was flying low,” Miguel Garcia, a 68-year-old farmer who lives close to the crash site, told AFP. “There was a great commotion, people gathered and screamed … and then boom, an explosion.”

Eliseo Lopez, a 31-year-old local construction worker, was one of several witnesses who said he saw smoke coming from one of the aircraft’s engines as “the plane spun around in the sky.” The first rescuers to get to the crash site overnight found the wreckage burning. The plane, a twin turbo-propeller ATR-72-212 built by French-Italian manufacturer Avions de Transport Regional, was heading to Havana after departing the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba when the crash occurred. It had taken off in dangerous weather conditions. But Cuba’s Civil Aeronautics Institute did not immediately say whether foul weather was a factor in the crash.