Panafrican News Agency

ROUNDUP: Ethiopia declares national mourning for 157 victims of tragic air crash

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) – Ethiopia has declared national mourning for victims of Sunday's tragic crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that claimed 157 lives.

The National Day of Mourning was declared by the Ethiopian Parliament for 11 March to mourn the citizens of all the nationalities involved in the crash, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a televised address.

He said the cause of the crash would be investigated by a team of technical experts and the report of the investigation would be released promptly.

There was no survivor whenEthiopian Airlines flight ET302, crashed on Sunday in Bishoftu, about 40 km outside Addis Ababa.

All the 157 people on board, among them 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, 17 Ethiopians and 8 Chinese nationals died, the airline said.

The jetliner, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, was captained by Yared Mulugeta and First Officer, Ahmed Nur Mohamed.

It lasted for 6 minutes in flight before crashing in an open field in Ejare, near the industrial town of Bishoftu, in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, after arriving on a flight from Johannesburg. The Captain sent a distress signal and was allowed to return before the crash, airline executives said on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, said the pilot received clearance to land back in Addis Ababa after takeoff, but the aircraft disappeared from the radar soon afterwards.

“Ethiopian Airlines deeply regrets the fatal accident involving the ET302 on a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. The group CEO who (is) at the scene regrets to confirm that there are no survivors. He 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 airline said.

Earlier, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed broke the news of the tragic crash. 

The airline confirmed the accident claimed the lives of 149 passengers and eight crew members. The airline announced forensic investigation to identify the victims have been launched.

The forensic investigation would be carried out by a committee comprising Ethiopian Airlines officials, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Transport Authority.

The airline promised to avail the bodies of the victims of the crash after the forensic investigation.

This is the second air accident disaster involving Boeing 737 MAX 8. The first accident involving a similar aircraft happened in October 2018. The accident occurred off Indonesian, killing 189 passengers.

According to aviation experts, new engineering adjustments aiming to make the 737 aircraft more fuel efficient may have made the aircraft’s software systems more vulnerable and prone to errors.

Aviation airlines commentators now blame the aircraft maker for failing to warn pilots and airline companies of the changes it introduced to the engines, which introduced software in places of pilots.

“It is too early to speculate on the cause of the accident and further investigation will be carried out to find out the cause of the accident in collaboration with the manufacturers,” Tewolde told reporters.

Boeing, the manufacturer, reported it was monitoring the situation involving the airplane closely.

The 32 Kenyans who perished in the accident include Kenyan Football official, Hussein Swale, Football Kenya Federation Chairman, Nick Mwendwa, said.

Swaleh was traveling to Nairobi from Alexandria, Egypt, where he was the match commissioner of the match between TP Mazembe and Ismaily.

Another victim was Jonathan Seex, Chief Executive of Tamarind, a major tourism company in Kenya. 

The victims from 35 different nationalities, include eight American nationals, eight Italians, seven Britons, five Germans, 4 Slovaks, three Swedes, 3 Austrians, two Spaniards, three Russians, one Mozambican, one Sudanese, a Somali, one Togolese, a Ugandan, a Yemeni, one Nigerian, four Indians, two Israelis, two Poles, a Belgian, one Irish, an Indonesian and a Saudi national.

Boeing has expressed deep sadness at the tragedy.

In a statement posted on its website, the US company said: "Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.

"We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team."

It said a Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site "to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board".

-0- PANA AO/MA 10March2019