Courts & Crime

U.S. won't prosecute in nation's first skyjacking, 51 years later

Fifty-one years after a hijacked airliner plunged into the dark waters of a Cuban bay, killing 14 people, a lead suspect who is now living in Miami will not be prosecuted under federal law unless new evidence emerges.

Citing the passage of time and fading evidence, the U.S. attorney's office in Miami said Thursday it will not be able to make a case against Edmundo Ponce de Leon, 73, in what was the first international hijacking from the United States.

"The allegations in this matter are more than 50 years old. Unfortunately, after a thorough review of the facts and the law as it existed at the time, this matter will remain dormant unless new evidence surfaces," said Alicia Valle, special counsel to the U.S. attorney.

The prosecutor's decision closes the chapter of the deadliest hijacking of the 1950s, when five men in green fatigues took over a Cubana Airlines turboprop shortly after it took off from Miami.

Although the case is closed, feelings remain raw.

"This is another way to help Fidel Castro who was the ultimate mastermind of this tragedy," said Omara González, who survived the crash.

Another survivor was Cuban engineer Osiris Martínez, who lost his wife and three children in the crash.

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