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Bodies of Cuban Stowaways Returning

January 17, 2001

HAVANA (AP) _ The bodies of two teen-age boys who hid in an airplane wheel well in an attempt to leave Cuba were sent home Wednesday following one of the most dramatic recent attempts to emigrate from the island.

Government media said the bodies of Alberto Vazquez, 17, and Maikel Fonseca, 16, were expected to arrive from Britain in the evening, but did not offer any other details.

The boys, both 11th graders at a military school, were killed on Christmas Eve after they climbed into the wheel well of a British Airways Boeing 777 shortly before it left Havana for London.

Vazquez and Fonseca died from subfreezing temperatures and lack of oxygen after the plane took off. Their bodies later fell from the craft, one shortly before landing in London, and the other as the plane took off for a flight to Mexico.

A letter from Fonseca to his family _ read last week on state television _ indicated that he and Vazquez planned to eventually live and work in the United States. It is unclear whether the boys thought the plane was headed to the United States, or if they planned to travel to the United States from Britain later.

The Communist Party daily Granma on Wednesday called the boys ``the most recent victims of the Cuban Adjustment Act″ _ a 1966 law that allows all Cubans who reach U.S. soil to avoid deportation.

Cuban authorities say the law encourages its citizens to make dangerous journeys, usually at sea, in hopes of gaining U.S. residency.

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