Seven Britons and one Irish citizen among Ethiopian Airlines crash dead

Seven British passengers and one from Ireland were among the 157 people killed when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after take-off, officials have said.Some 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to have been on the Boeing 737-8 MAX plane destined for Nairobi when it hit the ground six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 10th March 2019, 3:08 pm
Updated Sunday, 10th March 2019, 4:15 pm
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, seated right, holds a press briefing at the headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.

Kenya’s transport secretary James Macharia told reporters that he could confirm there were nationals from at least 35 different countries on board, including seven passengers from the UK.

Ethiopian Airlines told a press conference that an Irish citizen was also on board the flight which crashed at about 8.45am, leaving no survivors.

The Irish foreign ministry was supporting a family, while the British ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr Alastair McPhail, said his team were working hard in response to the “tragic crash”.

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Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko said his wife and two children were killed in the crash, while hospitality company Tamarind Group said its chief executive Jonathan Seex also died.

The cause of the crash was not yet known. Visibility was clear but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said “vertical speed was unstable after take off”.

The pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all clear to return, according to the airline’s chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam.

Senior captain Yared Getachew had a “commendable performance” having completed more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.

The plane had flown from Johannesburg to Addis earlier on Sunday morning, and had undergone a “rigorous” testing on February 4, a statement continued.

Records show the plane was new and delivered to the airline as recently as November.

An eyewitness told the BBC there was an intense fire when the plane crashed.

“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down. There are four helicopters at the scene now.”

Mr Gebremariam was pictured leafing through what little was left of the wreckage as he visited the freshly ground earth under the blue sky of Ethiopia’s capital.

Minister Therese Coffey said no officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were on board, though she suspected some of the passengers had been travelling to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

UK investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are likely to be communicating with their counterparts in Ethiopia to keep next-of-kin informed.

Many of the passengers were from Kenya, but others were said to be from Italy, France, the US, Canada, Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Germany, Slovakia and India.

The state-owned airline is frequently cited as the best-managed in Africa.

A statement from Boeing said the manufacturer was “deeply saddened” to learn of the disaster, adding: “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.”

The last fatal Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane crash was in 2010 when all 90 on board were killed when the aircraft crashed minutes after take-off from Beirut.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “aware of the incident and providing consular assistance”.