Cuba’s First Vice President visited the Calixto García Hospital where he was updated on the status of survivors of the air disaster. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

It is important that you know that you are not alone, that the Party and government support you, stated Salvador Valdés Mesa, first vice president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers while visiting families of the victims of the air disaster which occurred in Havana, May 18, leaving over 100 dead.

At the Tulipán Hotel in the Cuban capital, where 180 family members are currently staying, Valdés Mesa received information on the services provided with the establishment of medical and psychological support, as well as transportation and communication assistance for relations.

During the visit, Sergio Rabell Piera, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, reported that 20 victims had been identified by the morning of May 20.
At the close of this edition the remains of 40 victims had been positively identified.

“This is a process, in which nothing can be rushed. It is a very technical operation with a high-level of difficulty. We are working 24 hours a day with a professional medical team featuring, among others, anthropologists, psychologists and support physicians for the family members present,” he noted.

Regarding efforts to identify victims, Rabell Piera explained that relations of the Mexican flight crew are now in Cuba and have been undergoing the same procedure as other family members, including biological sampling and interviews as part of efforts to gather detailed information on the victims.

Meanwhile, Mexican Ambassador Agustín Rodríguez also visited the Institute of Forensic Medicine where he reaffirmed his confidence in the work of staff there.

On arrival at General Calixto García University Hospital, Valdés Mesa was updated on the condition of the survivors of the Boeing 737-200 disaster.

The institution’s director Dr. Carlos Alberto Martínez Blanco, explained that the patients are in a extremely critical condition and at risk of developing further complications, thus requiring constant care and assessment by medical teams in order to perform the necessary procedures to treat their injuries, explained Dr. Martínez.

Meanwhile, Valdés Mesa reaffirmed the government’s support for families of the victims at this difficult time, while also highlighting the differentiated and sensitive care being provided to relations by health and forensic medicine personnel, as well as provincial authorities.

Speaking at the site of the disaster, Armando L. Daniel López, president of Cuba’s Civil Aviation Institute and the commission created to investigate the crash, reported that work is still underway to recover the plane’s second black box (flight recorder).

“Now we are proceeding to collect additional parts which, although damaged, are still intact and will be reviewed at secure airport facilities, where experts will begin working on each system,” stated the official.

Armando Daniel López, went on to note that work is still underway to gather all the evidence to clarify what caused the tragic accident.

According to Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, Minister of Transport, since May 19, two investigators from Mexico, where the company that leased the plane is based, have been working at the site of the accident. He also noted that experts from Europe and the U.S. are expected to arrive, the latter representing the manufacturers of the Boeing 737-200.

Rodríguez added that the crash site will remain off-limits while investigations continue, and explained that determining the cause of the accident could take sometime, given the complexity of the task.

Havana’s José Martí International Airport continues to function normally. The runway, control tower, and airport facility were all inspected following the accident, and the decision was made to recommence all flight services within a short period of time, stated the Minister.