Funerals for Ethiopia crash victims but little to bury

Funerals for Ethiopia crash victims but little to bury
Relatives of the 17 Ethiopian victims gathered with hundreds of others at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, sobbing and holding portraits of their loved ones.
4 min read
17 March, 2019
Families in 35 nations were left bereaved when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed [Getty]
Ethiopians held funerals on Sunday for friends and relatives who perished in last week's Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed all onboard and saw the worldwide grounding of the Boeing aircraft involved.

Families in 35 nations were left bereaved when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft plummeted from the sky just minutes into its flight to Nairobi last Sunday, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board.

One week after the crash, relatives of the 17 Ethiopian victims gathered with hundreds of others at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, sobbing and holding portraits of their loved ones as an Ethiopian Orthodox priest said the last rites.

"What I can't forget is that she left an eight-month-old child and didn't come back," said Meselech Petros, whose sister Amma Tesfamariam was a flight attendant on the doomed aircraft. 

Her 28-year-old sister wasn't supposed to work that day, but had gone in to cover for a colleague. 

Caskets draped in the Ethiopian flag were brought to the cathedral in a convoy of black hearses accompanied by hundreds of mourners.

But it was not clear what the coffins contained.

Witnesses said the plane nose-dived into a field southeast of the capital, with the force of the impact leaving few bodies intact. 

On Thursday, as grieving families and friends visited the area where the plane went down, an AFP correspondent saw them being handed plastic water bottles filled with earth from the site. 

Ethiopia's government has said it may take up to six months to identify the remains.

'Grief belongs to everyone’

"What makes us very sad is we didn't find any of her remains," said Teshome Legesse, whose 24-year-old niece Ayantu Girma was a flight attendant on the plane.

Ethiopians Airlines is Africa's largest carrier and in many ways the international face of the nation.

The deaths have shocked Africa's second-most populous country, and the funeral attracted a wide range of mourners.

"We all are children of Adam and Eve, even though our skin colours are different," said Seyoum Kidanu, a retired police officer wearing full dress uniform and a sash in the colours of the Ethiopian flag. 

"When one person dies in this world, the grief belongs to everybody."

The black boxes from the plane are currently being examined by France's BEA air safety agency, which is working with American and Ethiopian investigators to determine what brought it down. 

Although Ethiopia has warned the investigation would take "considerable time," there were swift moves in the wake of the crash to ensure the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

As the world awaited answers, there were few answers for those trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. 

"She's a very good person. I don't how to describe her," said 26-year-old Selamsew Mathias, brother of the flight attendant Amma. 

"We are broken and hurting very much. It's very difficult."

Ethiopian Airlines said six Egyptians, two Moroccans, one Saudi, one Sudanese and one Yemeni were among the dead.

Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia nine, then Italy, China, and the United States with eight each.

At least 22 UN staff were on the flight, many headed for an annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme which opened under a dark cloud in Nairobi.


The ban on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft became worldwide on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump joined Canada and other countries in grounding the aircraft amid intense pressure about the safety concerns.

Demands grew for urgent answers over the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 as Ethiopian and US authorities searched for the cause of Sunday's deadly crash near the capital of the African nation.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the decision was based on new evidence gathered at the crash site near Addis Ababa as well as "newly refined satellite data."

Earlier that day, Canada also joined the long list of countries to ban the plane from flying in its airspace and many airlines have voluntarily taken it out of service.

Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg said he supported the US decision "out of an abundance of caution," but continues to have "full confidence" in the safety of the plane.

The company continues its efforts "to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again," Muilenburg said in a statement.

Preliminary accounts of the Ethiopian Airlines flight appear similar to the Lion Air crash in October that killed all 189 passengers and crew, which were echoed in concerns registered by US pilots on how the MAX 8 behaves.

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