What a Web We Weave: The CU-455 Mystery
It’s not widely remembered, but before September 11th 2001 or the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988, one of the deadliest acts of aircraft terrorism in the Western Hemisphere took place in the skies near to Barbados. A bomb placed on board a commercial airliner detonated in flight causing an internal fire on the aircraft.
This tragic anti-Castro terrorist attack happened 5 miles off the west coast and just 8 minutes after the plane took off, on route to Jamaica and then to Havana, Cuba.
The crew struggled to return the crippled airliner to Seawell Airport (now Grantley Adams International Airport) however the aircraft crashed into the sea killing all 73 persons on board. It was widely theorized that in extremis the pilot opted to head for the water rather than for the densely populated coastline, thus potentially saving countless lives.
The event is commemorated by a monument that is on Barbados’ west coast overlooking the sea.
The Cubana Monument was erected in 1998 at Paynes Bay.
The names of those who died are engraved on the sides of this memorial stone.
The inscription reads (in both English and Spanish) “In memory of those who lost their lives in the bombing of the Cubana DC 8 Aircraft Flight CUT 1201 which crashed in the sea off Barbados on October 6 1976. May their souls rest in peace.”
The monument was unveiled during the 1998 visit of Cuban President Fidel Castro to Barbados.
Strangely enough, it seems this is the only monument reminding of that tragic event, even though on board of that flight were no Bajan nationals. So far, there were only talks for erecting one in Guyana.
Even the number of persons killed in this tragedy is disputed, some sources saying there were 78 (73 passengers and 5 crew), while other mention a total of 73, with 25 crew members! According to the passenger list, there was a crew of 5 and other 20 employees of Cubana de Aviación.
The passenger list of Cubana Flight 455
The list of the 73 victims of the terrorist attack
(El listado de las 73 personas que fueron asesinadas)
Ernesto Machín Guzmán, 40, flight engineer
Ignacio Martínez Gandía, 25, sabre trainer for the national fencing team
Miriam Remedios de la Peña, 24, stewardess, international flights
Enrique Figueredo del Valle, 19, national fencing team competitor
José Pestana González, 41, Cubana de Aviación department head
Tomás Joaquín González Quintana, 41, supervisor with the Cubana de Aviación network’s General Control division
Guillermo Valencia Guinot, 53, international flight attendant
José A. Fernández Garzón, 19, junior fencing team competitor
Valentín Ladrón de Guevara, 39, member of Cubana de Aviación’s technical staff
Ramón Infante García, 27, national fencing team competitor
Julia Rosa Torres Álvarez, 46, wife of the manager of Cubana de Aviación’s Barbados office
Carlos M. Leyva González, 19, junior fencing team competitor
María Elena Rodríguez del Rey Bocalandro, 28, stewardess, international fights
Lázaro Serrano Mérida, 32, international flight attendant
Luis A. Morales Viego, 45, fencing Technical Committee member
Ramón J. Fernandiz Lefebre, 39, senior flight attendant with Cubana de Aviación
Martí Suárez Sánchez, 30, international air-traffic supervisor
Demetrio Alfonso González, 44, National Commissioner for Shooting
Cándido Muñoz Hernández, 20, national fencing team competitor
Julio Herrera Aldama, 25, national fencing team competitor
José A. Arencibia Arredondo, 23, national fencing team competitor
Orlando López Fuentes, 34, national épée team trainer
Jesús Méndez Silva, 30, national foil team competitor
Domingo Chacón Coello, 21, field agent with the Home Affairs Ministry
Jesús Rojo Quintana, 33, Cubana de Aviación official
Santiago E. Hayes Pérez, 30, national foil team trainer
Ermilio Castillo Castillo, 33, Cubana de Aviación route inspector
Inés Luaces Sánchez, 21, national foil team competitor
Lázaro Otero Madruga, 34, Cubana de Aviación route inspector
Jesús Gil Pérez, national fencing team armourer
Nelson Fernández Machado, 22, national fencing team competitor
Juan Duany González, 18, national saber team competitor
Wilfredo Pérez Pérez, 36, pilot. National Worker-Hero.
Angel Tomás Rodríguez, 36, Technical Training Manager, Cubana de Aviación.
Miguel Espinosa Cabrera, 47, DC-8 co-pilot.
Magaly Grave de Peralta Ferrer, 33, stewardess, international flights.
Moraima González Prieto, 21, stewardess, international flights.
Marlene González Arias, 23, stewardess, international flights.
Carlos Cremata Trujillo, 41, Cubana de Aviación flight dispatcher.
Armando Ramos Pagán, 38, Cubana de Aviación pilot.
Argelio Reyes Aguilar, Manager of the Caribbean shrimping fleet.
Leonardo Mackenzie Grant, 22, national foil team competitor.
Carlos T. Coquero Perdomo, 43, air-safety inspector.
Roberto G. Palacios Torres, 27, Cubana de Aviación navigator.
Armando E. Armengol Alonso, 58, Cubana de Aviación pilot.
Virgen M. Felizola García, 17, national foil team competitor.
Manuel Permuy Hernández, 40, Party Leader, INDER.
Ricardo Cabrera Fuentes, 23, national saber team competitor.
Sonia Coto Rodríguez, 33, Caribbean shrimping fleet worker.
Alberto Mario Abréu Gil, 38, Supply Manager of the Caribbean shrimping fleet.
Alberto Drake Crespo, 18, national saber team competitor.
Silvia Marta Pereira Jorge, 28, stewardess, international flights.
Nancy Uranga Romagosa, 22, national fencing team competitor.
Jorge de la Nuez Suárez, Party Secretary, Caribbean shrimping fleet
Eusebio Sánchez Domínguez, 25, international flight attendant.
Manuel A. Rodríguez Font, Cubana de Aviación official in Barbados.
Milagros Peláez González, 21, national fencing team competitor.
Korean citizens murdered
Kim To Yun, 42, Director of the Foreign Cultural Relations Committee.
Juang Ne Ik, 50, Vice Chairman of the Foreign Cultural Relations Committee.
Pak Je Chin, 40, Specialist on the Foreign Cultural Relations Committee.
Ki Bong, 30, Official of the Foreign Cultural Relations Committee.
Jan Sang Kyu, 41, cameraman.
Guyanese citizens murdered
Eric Norton, 18, student.
Ann Nelson, 18, student.
Seshnarine Kumar, 18, student.
Jacqueline Willians, 19, student.
Rawle Thomas, 18, student.
Raymond Persaud, 19, student.
Margaret Bradshaw, 22, wife of Guyanese diplomat in Havana.
(The girl Sabrina Harrypaul, Mrs. Violet Thomas and Mrs. Rita Thomas were members of the same family)
—Luis Posada Carriles … how dare the United States government protect this man!
Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 was a Cuban flight from Barbados to Jamaica that was brought down by a terrorist attack on October 6, 1976. All 73 people on board the Douglas DC-8 aircraft were killed in what was then the deadliest terrorist airline attack in the Western Hemisphere. Two time bombs were used, variously described as dynamite or C-4.
Four men were arrested in connection with the bombing and a trial was held in Venezuela: Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano were sentenced to 20-year prison terms; Orlando Bosch was acquitted because of technical defects in the prosecution evidence, and lived in Miami, Florida until he died on the 27th of April, 2011; and 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 released on April 19, 2007.
All 68 passengers and 5 crew aboard the plane died: the passengers comprised 52 Cubans, 11 Guyanese, and five 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; many were teenagers.
The 11 Guyanese passengers included five traveling to Cuba to study medicine, and the young wife of a Guyanese diplomat.
The five Koreans were government officials and a cameraman.