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Global Air Boeing 737-200. Photo by Aramidea, CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Poor safety record alleged in Cuba air disaster

The same aircraft had already been banned from Guyanese airspace when suitcases were found in the toilets.

The Boeing 737 that crashed in Cuba on Friday shortly after take-off, killing 110 people on board, was operated by a Mexican charter company that had already received a number of safety complaints, the BBC quotes two former pilots as saying.

Three women survived the crash near Havana’s main José Martí International Airport in the country’s worst air disaster in more than 30 years. But they are in a critical condition with serious burns.

One of the two black boxes has been retrieved from the crash site in “good condition”, Cuban officials said, and there are hopes the second device will be recovered soon.

The Mexican-based company Damojh leased the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737 and its crew to the state-owned airline Cubana.

One of the ex-pilots tells the BBC how another plane rented from Damojh had vanished from radar about eight years ago. The captain and co-pilot were later suspended for “problems and serious lack of technical knowledge”, according to a Cubana employee.

Another former pilot alleges that the company has poor safety and maintenance. Captain Egbert Field, head of Guyana’s civil aviation body, told the news agency Associated Press that the same plane that crashed was barred last year from Guyanese airspace when it was discovered that its crew were overloading luggage on flights from Cuba – with some of the suitcases stored in the aircraft’s toilets.

The 110 victims include 99 Cubans, six Mexican crew, one Mexican tourist, an Argentine couple and two passengers from the Western Sahara.

Mexican authorities say they will make a safety audit of the company, while Cuba has already launched its own investigation.

[photo by Aramidea, CC BY-SA 3.0 license]

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