All 157 people on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight were killed early Sunday after the plane crashed just six minutes into its ascent, officials said.
The victims of the Boeing 737-8 MAX crash included eight Americans. There were 149 passengers and eight crew members believed to be on the flight from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash around Bishoftu, some 31 miles south of Addis Ababa, at 8:44 a.m. The plane was new and had been delivered to the airline in November, records show.
The pilot was seasoned and had flown 8,000 hours and captained a 737 since November 2017, officials said during a press conference.
The state-owned airline is widely considered the best managed in Africa.
In addition to the eight Americans on board, 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Chinese, eight Italians, seven each from France and Britain, six from Egypt, five each from the Netherlands and Germany, four each from India and Slovakia, three from Russia and one from Serbia all lost their lives.
The victims have slowly been identified by local government and media reports from the various countries affected.
Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Seex, of The Tamarind Group, which according to its website owns and operates some of the most successful restaurants and leisure operations in Africa, was among the first to be named. The three Russian victims were identified as Yekaterina Polyakova, Alexander Polyakov and Sergei Vyalikov by the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia.
Doctors and humanitarians, respectively from Austria and Italy, were also believed to be victims but have not been named yet.
The airline announced that it will join a committee made up of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, Ethiopian Transport Authority and other international stakeholders to investigate the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a brief statement saying it plans to assist with the investigation. The Paris prosecutor’s office said it is launching its own investigation, which is standard procedure when French citizens are killed abroad.
In the chaos of the news of the crash, family members of those aboard rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and Nairobi, anxiously awaiting news.
“I came to the airport to receive my brother, but I have been told there is a problem,” Agnes Muilu said. “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”
“Why are they taking us round and round? It is all over the news that the plane crashed,” said Edwin Ong’undi, who had been waiting for his sister. “All we are asking for is information to know about their fate.”
The airline later posted a photo of the company’s CEO standing amid the wreckage and confirmed there were no survivors.
“[Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam] expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” the post read.
The families of the victims have been notified, the airline said.
An eyewitness at the scene told the BBC a massive fire broke out when the plane hit the ground.
“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down. There are four helicopters at the scene now.”
Officials in both Ethiopia and Kenya offered their condolences to the victim’s families.
“The office of the PM, on behalf of the government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya, this morning,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wrote on Twitter.
“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
It is the second crash of a Boeing 737-8 MAX to kill all passengers and crew members on board in recent months.
In October, another aircraft of the same make plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, killing all 189 people on the Lion Air flight. The cockpit data recorder showed that the jet’s airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights, though Lion Air initially claimed that problems with the aircraft had been fixed.
The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010 when a plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut killing all 90 people on board.
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