Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- An Ethiopian Airlines' aircraft with 90 people on board crashed into the Mediterranean Sea early Monday, few minutes after depart i ng from Beirut Airport in Lebanon.
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft with flight number ET409 departed Beirut at 2:35 am local time on 25 Jan and few minutes after departure, it lost every connection w i th Lebanese aviation authorities, according to Girma Wake, Chief Executive Offic e r (CEO) of Ethiopian Airlines.
Hours later, Lebanese army and navy spotted the wreckage of the aircraft two kil ometres from the shore of the Mediterranean.
There are reports that about seven bodies have been found in the rescue operatio n.
Forces from the UN Mission in Lebanon are also involved in the rescue operation, along with the Middle East countryâ?s army and aviation authorities, under the rescue team led by Lebanese Minister of Transport, Girma said.
He said Ethiopian Airlines has also contracted rescue professionals from London and â?they will be flying to Beirut this afternoon to join the rescue teamâ?.
A 14-member Ethiopian delegation comprising aviation authorities and airline man agement, intelligence service as well as medical personnel, has already departed Addis to join the investigation and rescue operations, Girma said.
There were 82 passengers and 8 crewm embers on board the crashed aircraft.
Of th e passengers.
23 are Ethiopians, 51 Lebanese, 2 British and the remaining 6 from France, Turkey, Russia, Canada, Syria and Iraq, according to the CEO.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that one of the passengers was the wife of the Fren ch Ambassador to Lebanon.
â?What I can confirm is that there were 52 male and 30 female passengers on tha t Aircraft and the (French) Ambassadorâ?s wife could be one of them,â? Girma sa id at a press conference at Ethiopian Airlines Headquarters here.
Though Girma said that there was bad weather at departure, he stated that the ca use of the crash was yet unknown.
â?There was bad weather but how bad it was, I donâ?t know.
If it was too bad t he crew would not have departed in the first place,â? he told reporters.
Ethiopian Airlines has a reputation of safety.
In 1988, birds entered the engine of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft during takeo ff from Bahirdar Airport, one of the regional airports in Ethiopia, causing it t o crash.
In 1996, a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane from Addis Ababa ran out of fuel wh ile trying to land in the Comoros, and the pilots ditched the plane into the Ind i an Ocean in a remarkable landing that helped save most passengers.
â?Crashes due to technical failures and crew defect are non-existent in the his tory of Ethiopian Airlines,â? Girma said.
The 737-800 â" which Ethiopian leased from CIT Aerospace, a New York-based priv ate company â" flew from Addis Ababa to Beirut on Sunday on a daily regular flig ht operation and has no indication of defect both in Addis and Beirut airports.
The last time it went through a regular maintenance and check-up was 25 December , 2009.
The aircraft was manufactured in 2000 and entered operations with Ethiopian Airl ines in September 2009.