14ymedio, Havana, February 26th, 2019 — Residents from the Güira de Melena municipality, Artemisa Province, witnessed a «mid-air explosion» on Tuesday morning, according to the information posted on Facebook by Artemisa’s newspaper. «Around 11 am, there were reports of sightings of an aircraft on fire and two pilots ejecting from it with parachutes.»
Witnesses said «there were no casualties or injured.» However, there is no information available about the two crewmen.
An official source from the area, contacted via telephone, told us the aircraft involved was a MiG-23 and confirmed it crashed near the town «La Cachimba.»
In April 2017, in the same province, an AN-26 air force plane crashed against La Pimienta Hill, in the Candelaria Municipality, leaving military crewmen dead.
A video posted by the YouTube channel Conexion Cubanos shows the moment when a group of farmers working in the area and some neighbors run towards a smoke column. On the ground the remains of an aircraft on fire can be clearly seen, and the moment when the firefighters arrive and start to put the flames out with water hoses. The model/type of aircraft cannot be clearly seen. Seconds after, a chopper circling around brings in 3 armed soldiers. Before the video ends, a voice can be heard yelling:»If I see any cell phone on, I will confiscate it.»
The images show the aircraft crashed right next to the structure of an abandoned warehouse without a roof, in what used to be a state managed farming operation. These types of derelict structures are frequently seen in the valley of Güira de Melena, an agricultural area where, in the past, the government also tried to develop cattle and poultry operations.
Last year, a commercial aircraft operated by Cubana de Aviación crashed shortly after take off at José Martí International Airport in Havana. One hundred and twelve died in the crash, including the entire crew. The official report with the causes of the crash of the plane, leased from the Mexican company Global Air, have not been yet published
At the end of 2018, Russia announced a loan of more than 38 million euros to Cuba, earmarked to purchase military equipment. After a meeting between Miguel Díaz-Canel and Vladímir Putin in Moscow, the Kremlin said it was planning to award a loan to Havana to acquire airplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles, among other things.
During the midday newscast, that airs between 1 – 2 pm on the main official TV channel, there was no mention of the incident.
Translated by: Mailyn S. Cappuccio
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