32 Kenyans dead in Ethiopian air crash

Thirty two Kenyans are among the dead in the Ethiopian air crash that occured on Sunday morning, claiming 157 lives, in a major air disaster to affect the airline whose safety record is highly rated.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, told journalists Kenya is the worst affected nation after the crash that occurred earlier today when a brand new Boeing to Nairobi crashed just six minutes on take-off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

“There were at least thirty-five nationalities and regrettably Kenya is the highest with 32 passengers on board. We are focusing more on the welfare of the friends and relatives of the passengers who are as at now at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel within the vicinity of the airport,” Macharia said.

There were also 18 Canadians, 9 Ethiopians, 8 Americans and 7 Britons who perished in the crash.

The CS said the government has now dispatched a team officials to Addis Ababa led by Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett to coordinate the operations, which include airlifting the bodies back home.

“Senior officers both government and regulatory authorities in Ethiopia are on site and that is why we are also sending our senior officers in Nairobi to be able to coordinate with the senior officers in Ethiopia,” he said.

The airline said the pilot of the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis, chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said the plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa by road.

The weather in the capital, was reported to be clear when the brand-new Boeing plane, delivered to Ethiopia last year, plane took off.

The Boeing 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.

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 were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

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