Bishoftu, Ethiopia: A Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 crashed minutes after an early-morning take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board, Ethiopian Airlines said as world leaders offered condolences to distraught next-of-kin. People from 35 countries and a UN passport-holder were on board flight ET 302 which ploughed into a field 60 km southeast of Addis Ababa, the carrier’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said in the capital, lamenting this “very sad and tragic day.”
“We can only hope that she is not on that flight,” Peter Kimani, who had come to fetch his sister at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), said after news of the disaster reached those waiting in the arrivals hall. State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said the ill-fated Boeing 737-800MAX had taken off at 8:38 am from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later. Scheduled to land in Nairobi at 10:25 am, it came down near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu. An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely. Rescue crews were retrieving human remains from the wreckage.
Ethiopian Airlines confirmed “there are no survivors,” adding it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash. Police and troops were on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia’s civil aviation agency. In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends and colleagues of passengers waited for news at the airport. “I am waiting for my colleague, I just hope for the best,” added Hannah, a Chinese national. Ethiopian Airlines said Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia with nine, then Italy, China, and the United States with eight each. Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six and Germany five.