An Ethiopian Airliner ET302, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner, crashed on Sunday morning shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, killing 157 people.
The Ethiopian Airlines plane took off from Bole International Airport at 8:38 am local time with its last recorded location received at 8:41 am. The airline’s CEO told reporters that the pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return. Six minutes later, contact with the plane was lost. Flightradar24 records show that the plane’s vertical speed quickly became erratic moments before the pilot – Senior Captain Yared Getachew with more than 8,000 hours in the air – issued a distress call.
“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” said an eyewitness. “Everything is burnt down.”
Among the victims were 32 Kenyans – including the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Foundation, Tamarind CEO Jonathan Seex and KAA managers George Kabugi and Juliet Otieno,18 Canadians, 9 Ethiopians, 8 Americans, 8 Chinese, 8 Italians and 7 Britons, 7 French citizens, 6 Egyptians, 5 Germans, 4 Indians, 4 Slovakians, 3 Austrians, 3 Swedes, 3 Russians, 2 Moroccans, 2 Spaniards, 2 Poles and Two Israelis and one passenger each from Ireland, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Belgium, Indonesia, Somalia, Norway, Serbia, Togo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen.
Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Transport James Macharia and Ethiopian Airlines’ Kenya country manager, Yilma Goshu, held a press conference at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi where the two officials said that the focus now would be on conducting the “investigation in line with international standards” and on “comforting and counselling relatives, friends and family” of passengers on board the flight. So far they managed to contact 25 families, they confirmed.
Goshu said that relatives of the victims who wished to travel to Addis would be assisted, and the government would provide accommodation and updates to the investigation.
He added that Ethiopian Airlines had grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet, “as a precautionary safety measure. He noted that the decision to “suspend the planes from service” did not mean that the incident was related to “defects with (this) specific fleet.”
The Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner is now under scrutiny after being involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months, raising safety concerns to other airlines globally. In late October, a 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing 189 people.
“A formal investigation will need to be conducted into this new crash. It’s important not to speculate as to its causes. A final, conclusive report has yet to be issued in the case of the Lion Air crash,” said Greg Waldron, Asia’s managing editor at aviation research firm FlightGlobal. “That said, having two crashes of a brand new type in a short time is an unprecedented state of events,” he added. “ It is inevitable that this will affect perceptions about the 737 MAX family.”