Ten Nazarene pastors and their wives were killed in last week’s Cubana Flight 972 that crashed shortly after takeoff near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba.
The couples were returning home to the church’s Cuba East District from a minister and spouses’ retreat.
“They were leaving an event at the El Nazareno evangelical seminary and were returning to their province in the eastern region,” Maite Quesada of the Council of Churches of Cuba told CBN News.
Cuba Church of the Nazarene President Leonel López said the retreat was a three-day event and was attended by 125 couples.
“They were men and women faithful to God, to their families, to their neighbors and to the people.”
According to López, the bus driver said the East District couples who were on Flight 972 were singing and praying on the bus on the way to the airport.
López said several children, adolescents and young are left orphans without their fathers and mothers. Some of them have no extended family.
“May all the Church of the Nazarene family unite in prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters,” said Carlos Saenz, Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica Region Director.
The Nazarene Church has been in Cuba for 72 years.
The 39-year-old Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, rented from the Mexican firm Global Air, owner of Aerolíneas Damojh, had been the subject of two serious complaints about its crews’ performance over the last decade, according to authorities in Guyana and a retired pilot for Cuba’s national airline.
Mexico’s government said late Saturday that its National Civil Aviation Authority will carry out an operational audit of Damojh airlines to see if its “current operating conditions continue meeting regulations” and to help collect information for the investigation into Friday’s crash in Cuba that left 110 dead.
The plane that crashed was barred from Guyanese airspace last year after authorities discovered that its crew had been allowing dangerous overloading of luggage on flights to Cuba, Guyanese Civil Aviation Director Capt. Egbert Field told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Romulo Oms, a retired Cubana de Aviación and Aero Caribbean pilot who now lives in Miami, told the Miami Herald it’s possible that cargo might have played a role in the Cuban crash.
“Before takeoff, all planes need to be balanced according to their mix of passengers, cargo and fuel. He said that since the plane took off and seemed to immediately have problems in the air as it made its turn toward Holguín, it’s possible that poor balance could have contributed to the crash.”
Witnesses told state media that one of the plane’s engines appeared to be on fire and it hit electrical wires as it was going down.
Friday’s crash was among the worst aviation disasters in Cuban history. On Sunday Cuba entered its second day of national mourning for the crash victims.
“We’re all at home in mourning,” wrote one Cuban social media commentator. “No music or laughs, only pain and tears.”
The first funerals were held Sunday in Holguín.