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Ecuador Plane Crash Kills 69

August 29, 1998

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ A Cuban commercial airplane burst into flames and crashed during takeoff Saturday in Ecuador, killing at least 69 people, authorities said.

Witnesses said the Russian-made Tupolev aircraft owned by Cubana de Aviacion lost altitude and clipped the top of an auto mechanic’s shop beyond the end of the runway at the Quito international airport before plowing into a soccer field.

The plane was heading to Guayaquil, on the Ecuadorean coast, and then on to Havana.

Airport officials said there were 76 passengers and six crew members on board. They did not say what caused the crash or provide the nationalities of the passengers.

Alfredo Albuja, head of emergency operations for the Civil Aviation Office, said at least 69 people were killed in the crash but did not specify if that included anyone killed on the ground.

A local radio station reported that four people died when the plane struck the mechanic’s shop, but that could not be confirmed.

``There must be many dead, but there are also survivors. I pulled one person out alive,″ said civil defense volunteer Hugo Albuja.

Channel 10 television interviewed Cuban survivor Hernan Boada, 27, who suffered a broken ankle.

``Before we heard the roar of the crash, we felt the plane rise a bit and burst in flames. There were three explosions,″ Boada said. ``I saw other people wrapped in flames jump from the plane.″

Boada said that ``people nearby, in a soccer field, helped me get away from the plane fearing explosions.″

Update hourly