May 16, 2019 / 9:31 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Cuba says Boeing 737 plane crash last year likely due to crew errors

(Adds fact Damojh no longer operating)

By Sarah Marsh

HAVANA, May 16 (Reuters) - An investigation into the crash a year ago in Havana of a Boeing 737 jet that killed all but one of the 113 people aboard suggests the most probable cause was errors by the crew who died in the crash, Cuba said on Thursday.

The 39-year-old plane, leased by the little-known Mexican company Damojh to Cuba's flagship carrier Cubana, dived into fields south of Havana shortly after taking off on a domestic flight on May 18, 2018, bursting into flames.

"The most probable cause of the accident were the actions of the crew and their errors in the calculations of weight and balance that led to loss of control of the plane and its fall during the takeoff phase," the Cuban Institute of Civil Aeronautics said in a statement.

The crew, which was included in Damojh's lease agreement with Cubana, was Mexican. Most of the passengers on the flight to the eastern city of Holguin were Cuban.

Damojh has not operated since at least August 2018, after Mexico’s civil aviation authority suspended it for several months. By the time the agency finished probing into the company’s operations, Damojh had ended contracts to rent and operate its two planes that remained after the crash.

Reuters was unable to reach the company or immediately verify whether it still existed.

Boeing Co did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Damojh said last July that black boxes retrieved from the wreckage showed the crew had piloted it at a “very steep angle," leading to a lack of lift that made the plane plunge after take-off.

The Cuban-led commission investigating the crash, including Mexican and U.S. agencies, said at the time the conclusion was premature.

Damojh was banned from flying in Guyana in 2017 because of safety concerns. Mexico’s aviation authority said it had suspended Damojh in 2010 and 2013 during regulatory compliance reviews.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler

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