17 Killed in Cuba Plane Crash
BAEZ, Cuba (AP) _ Authorities were pulling the bodies of 17 people _ including 13 foreigners _ from a pond in central Cuba early Friday after a chartered plane crashed in this rural region.
The plane, a single-engine, Soviet-made Antonov AN-2, went down Thursday afternoon in this small community just south of Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara province about 165 miles east of here.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
The victims were two Germans, six Canadians, five British citizens and four Cubans, an official from the International Press Center said Thursday night.
A doctor answering the telephone in the emergency room of Santa Clara’s Arnaldo Milan Castro Hospital, said he was among those who went out to crash site. The doctor, who did not give his name, confirmed 17 had died and there were no survivors.
Farmer Ramon Sampiero said he was feeding his pigs Thursday afternoon when he saw the plane start to lower in the sky.
``I saw it fly very low, but did not hear it crash,″ Sampiero said early Friday.
Witnesses who rushed to the pond to investigate said they could see the plane’s tail jutting out of the water.
Authorities blocked access to the pond on Friday morning.
Associated Press journalists saw seven funeral cars with caskets inside leaving the area around the pond around dawn.
The AN-2 model, the world’s largest biplane, was operated by a local charter company, Aerotaxi. The telephone at the company’s Havana office rang unanswered early Friday.
In the past, some AN-2 planes were used by Soviet paratroopers, but most were used as small passenger planes that traveled within the former Soviet Union.
Mia Yen, spokeswoman for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa, said late Thursday that Cuban authorities had told the Canadian Embassy in Havana that the plane was traveling from the central city of Cienfuegos to Cayo Coco, an exclusive resort in the keys stretching along the main island’s northern coast.
Yen said she could not confirm the number of Canadians killed, or their identities.
She said that Canadian Embassy officials in Havana, along with the Canadian Honorary Consul based in the beach resort of Varadero east of here, were in contact with Cuban authorities and preparing to travel to the crash site.