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DoD Aids in Search and Rescue of Hijacked Cuban Plane

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2000 – The United States immediately launched several sea and air craft to assist in the search for an allegedly hijacked Cuban plane that crashed early Sept. 19 into the Caribbean south of the Florida Keys.

Early in the afternoon, the Coast Guard reported a civilian boat 180 miles south of Key West, Fla., had picked up nine survivors and the body of one other person believed to be from the plane.

The Cuban Antonov AN-2 Colt passenger plane took off at 8:45 a.m. from Pinar del Rio, Cuba. At 9 a.m., Havana Center lost contact with the plane and reported to the Federal Aviation Administration's Miami Center that a hijacking was in progress. Conflicting reports put the number of people on board between 14 and 18.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the North American Air Defense Command launched two Florida Air National Guard F-15s from the 125th Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Base, south of Miami, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley.

The planes flew to the area to assist if they could, Quigley said. An Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft from 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., was diverted from a training mission over the United States to proceed to the scene.

"These aircraft did not make visual or radar contact with the air craft before it splashed down," he said.

The Coast Guard immediately dispatched the 110-foot patrol cutters Monhegan and Nantucket from Key West to where the Cuban aircraft was last seen on FAA radar. A Coast Guard C- 130 from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., and three HH-65 Dolphin helicopters and one HU-25 Falcon jet from Air Station Miami were also dispatched.

The Coast Guard reported four- to six-foot seas and 15- to 20-knot winds in the area.

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