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British tourists killed as aircraft crashes in Cuba.

Four Britons were among 16 people who died when a light aircraft crashed in Cuba, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday.

Reports from the area said the plane, an Antonov AN-2 operated by the state airline Aerotaxi, went down on Thursday near the city of Santa Clara, 160 miles east of thecapital Havana. The Britons were named as: married couple Shaun and Angela Lawrence, from Doncaster, and Paul Fuller and Lorrelley Ross, from Kent.

The aircraft had been on a round-trip from Cienfuegos on Cuba's southern coast and the island resort of Cayo Coco, in the north.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: 'I can confirm that four British nationals have been killed. We are in the process of informing next of kin. I understand there are no survivors.'

She added that two of the victims were German and six came from Canada. Four Cubans, understood to be the pilot, crew and tour leader, also died.

It is not yet known what caused the crash but Cuban authorities were due to launch an investigation into the tragedy yesterday.

Cuba has been growing in popularity as a sunshine holiday destination for Britons, with many of the leading UK tour operators offering comprehensive package deals.

Like many of the Caribbean islands, the country has also become a favoured spot for weddings abroad.

The Britons may have been travelling independently, as the major UK tour operators do not offer light-aircraft excursions within their Cuban packages.

A spokesman for the UK's biggest tour operator, Thomson Holidays, said: 'Cuba is now very popular for both package and independent travellers, with the capital Havana being very much an 'in' place.'

Cienfuegos, known as the Pearl of the South, is an important seaport and centre for the sugar, coffee and tobacco trades and looks out on to the Caribbean.

Cayo Coco, the fourth largest island in the Cuban archipelago, lies off the Atlantic coast.

A coral reef, which is popular with divers, lies off its sandy 10km beach.

Santa Clara is in the heart of sugar cane country and is the capital of Villa Clara Province.

The former colonial city, which was founded in 1689, is home to one of Cuba's largest universities.

The Russian-built Antonov AN-2 biplane is a single propeller aircraft, built in Kiev, in the former USSR, from 1947.

It has now been in service for more than 50 years and is known to be a reliable utility transporter.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 16, 2002
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