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On Wednesday, 6th October 1976, Cubana Airways Flight CU-455 was scheduled to fly the following route: Guyana to Trinidad, Trinidad to Barbados, Barbados to Jamaica, and finally, Kingston to Havana, Cuba.
At 13:24, nine minutes after takeoff from Barbados Seawell International Airport (now Grantley Adams Airport) and at an altitude of 18,000 feet, a bomb located in the aircraft’s rear lavatory exploded. Captain Wilfredo Perez- Perez, radioed to the control tower: “We have an explosion on board. We are descending immediately!…We have fire aboard! We are requesting immediate landing! We have a total emergency!”
The plane went into a rapid descent, while the pilot unsuccessfully tried to return to Seawell Airport. A second bomb exploded during the following minutes, causing the plane to crash.
Realising a successful landing was no longer possible, it appears that the pilot turned the aircraft away from the beach and towards the Atlantic Ocean, saving the lives of many tourists. This occurred about eight kilometers short of the airport.
All 48 passengers and 25 crew members aboard the plane died; 57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese, and five North Koreans. Among the dead were 24 members of the 1975 Cuban National Fencing Team that had won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championships.
The Guyanese were primarily young students heading to Cuba to study medicine, engineering, and other disciplines.
Two Venezuelan nationals, Hernán Ricardo Lozano and Freddy Lugo, joined the flight in Trinidad and Tobago. They left the bombs on the plane before disembarking in Barbados. Lugo later told police officials that Ricardo boasted that the 73 people he killed on the plane were “more than the Jackal,” alluding to the famous terrorist Carlos the Jackal.
“Now I’m the one who has the record because I’m the one who blew up that thing,” he allegedly told Lugo.
Ricardo confessed to Barbadian and Trinidad officials who were investigating the crime that he and Lugo bombed the plane and that they worked for Luis Posada Carriles. He even drew a diagram for them of the detonator he used to ignite the C-4 explosives he placed in the aircraft. He admitted to receiving $25,000 for downing the plane.
This was an act of terror, the first act of terrorism against civilian aviation in the western hemisphere. Four men were arrested in connection with the bombing, and a trial was held in Venezuela.
Freddy Lugo and Hernan 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 of America, where he was held on charges of entering the country illegally. Carriles was released on April 19, 2007 and lives as a free man in the USA Today.
We will never forget this cowardly and dastardly act of terror perpetrated on the Cuban, North Korean, and Guyanese passengers of Cubana Flight 455. On this somber occasion, Guyana affirms our solidarity with the people of Cuba, with whom we have shared a great friendship and fraternal bond.
On this infamous day, all Guyanese to remember our brothers and sisters who were murdered.
Eric Norton, 18 years old- Student; Ann Nelson, 18 years old-Student; Seshnarine Kumar, 18 years old- Student; Jaqueline Williams, 19 years old- Student; Rawle Thomas, 18 years old- Student; Margaret Bradshaw- the wife of a Guyanese Diplomat; Gordon Sobha- Economists; Violet Thomas; Rita Thomas; Sabrina Harripaul age 9 years old- related to Violet and Rita Thomas.
“They died because there are some in this world, and more particularly in this hemisphere, who do not accept the right of a people to fashion their own destinies and to dictate their own goals.” ~ Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Excerpt from Statement, Wednesday 6th October 1976.
And as if the incident never occurred, Guyana did not pay any attention to the anniversary. This is a country known to observe incidents that occurred nearly 200 years ago. (Guyanapostonline.com)