Cubana Flight 455, commonly referred to as the Cubana Air Disaster, was a Cuban flight from Barbados to Jamaica that was brought down on October 6, 1976 by a terrorist bomb attack. All 73 people, including 11 Guyanese, on board the Douglas DC-8 aircraft were killed.
Two time bombs were used, whose explosives have been variously described as dynamite or C-4. The crash killed every member of the Cuban National Fencing team.
Eleven minutes after takeoff from Barbados’s Seawell Airport (now Grantley Adams International Airport) and at an altitude of 18,000 feet, two bombs exploded on board. One was located in the aircraft’s rear lavatory, and another in the midsection of the passenger cabin. The former ultimately destroyed the aircraft’s control cables, while the latter blasted a hole in the aircraft and started a fire.
The plane went into a rapid descent, while the pilots tried unsuccessfully to return the plane to Seawell Airport. The captain, Wilfredo Pérez Pérez, radioed to the control tower: “We have an explosion aboard – we are descending immediately! … We have fire on board! We are requesting immediate landing! We have a total emergency!” Realizing a successful landing was no longer possible, it appears that the pilot turned the craft away from the beach and towards the Caribbean Sea off porters St James, saving the lives of many tourists. The crash occurred about eight kilometres short of the airport.
There were 48 passengers and 25 crew aboard the plane as follows:
- 57 Cubans,
- 11 Guyanese, and
- 5 North Koreans.
Among the dead were all 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championships.
The 11 Guyanese passengers included five travelling to Cuba to study medicine, and the young wife of a Guyanese diplomat. The five Koreans were government officials and a cameraman.
Four men were arrested in connection with the bombing, and a trial was held in Venezuela. Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano were each sentenced to 20-year prison terms. Orlando Bosch was acquitted and later moved to Miami, Florida, where he lived until his death on April 27, 2011. Luis Posada Carriles was held for eight years while awaiting a final sentence but eventually fled. He later entered the United States, where he was held on charges of entering the country illegally, but was released on April 19, 2007.