Aero Caribbean Flight 883
CU-T1549, the aircraft involved in the accident, at Baracoa Airport on October 4, 2010, exactly one month before the crash.
|Date||4 November 2010|
|Summary||Icing (Investigation is still open as some questions are unanswered)|
|Site||Guasimal, Sancti Spíritus, Cuba
|Flight origin||Toussaint Louverture International Airport, Port-au-Prince|
|Stopover||Antonio Maceo Airport, Santiago de Cuba|
|Destination||José Martí International Airport, Havana|
Aero Caribbean Flight 883 was an international scheduled passenger flight from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Havana, Cuba, via Santiago de Cuba. On 4 November 2010, the Aero Caribbean ATR-72-212 operating the route crashed in the central Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus, killing all 61 passengers and 7 crew members aboard. It is the joint deadliest accident involving the ATR 72 (American Eagle Flight 4184 also killed 68 people), and the third deadliest aviation accident in Cuba.
The aircraft involved was an ATR-72-212, registration CU-T1549, in use with Aero Caribbean since October 2006. It was delivered from the production line in 1995 to its first owner, Simmons Airlines and also with Continental Express as the second one. The Cuba-based company, Aero Caribbean, was the third owner and bought it in 2006. According to the manufacturer, the plane had accumulated almost 25,000 flight hours in more than 34,500 flights. Aero Caribbean is wholly owned by the government of Cuba.
The flight originated in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The aircraft departed Santiago de Cuba en route to Havana around 16:50 local time (20:50 UTC). It was the last flight out of Santiago de Cuba airport before it was closed because of the approach of Hurricane Tomas. At 17:42, the aircraft crashed near the town of Guasimal in Sancti Spíritus province, some 210 miles (340 km) southeast of Havana, after issuing an emergency call. Witnesses said the plane was "flying low and appeared unstable ... pouring out smoke and fire", before hearing an explosion.
Medical facilities in Guasimal were put on alert to prepare for emergency patients. However, by midnight they were told to stand down as no survivors were expected.
The accident was the deadliest involving the ATR 72 at the time it happened. It was also the third deadliest aircraft accident in Cuba, after the crash of a Cubana de Aviación Ilyushin Il-62M on 3 September 1989, which killed a total of 171 people, and the crash of an Aeroflot Ilyushin Il-62M on 27 May 1977, which killed a total of 69 people.
Search and recovery
In order to allow access to the crash site, rescue workers had to use bulldozers to plow through thick vegetation. The aircraft was completely destroyed by the impact and resulting explosion, and all the victims' bodies were badly burned. Investigators believe that the passengers had no time to react because all bodies were found in their own seats, which helped investigators with identifications. The wreckage burned for hours after the crash. The recovered bodies were to be sent to Cuba's Institute of Legal Medicine for identification.
Passengers and crew
The passengers and crew were of various nationalities.
The Instituto de Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba took responsibility for investigating the accident in Cuba with assistance from ATR and the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA). On 16 November the investigation authority presented the final report following analysis of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. It concluded that a combination of extreme weather conditions caused severe icing, which, along with improper crew operating procedures, ultimately led to the loss of the aircraft in a similar set of circumstances to the American Eagle Flight 4184 incident, which occurred in 1994 with the same type of aircraft with the same number of fatalities. ATR confirmed that the aircraft was in optimal technical condition.
- Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sent a plane with relatives of the victims to bring home the bodies.
- Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, South African President Jacob Zuma, Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in a message addressing Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla, all sent condolences.
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