A Boeing 737-800MAX aircraft that was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in November 2018 crashed on route to Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday, killing all eight crew members and 149 passengers on board. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 took off from Bole International Airport in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa at 08h38. Less than ten minutes later, the aeroplane crashed outside Addis Ababa. “The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion. I was near the river close to the crash site. Shortly after the crash police and a fire crew from a nearby air force camp came and extinguished the plane’s flames on the ground. The plane was in flames at its rear end shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash,” eyewitness Tegegn Dechasa told the Ethiopian News Agency.
In a press conference on Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam said, “It is too early to speculate the cause of the accident,” adding that further investigation is needed. Tewolde clarified that aircraft manufacturer Boeing, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and other international entities will take part in the investigation to identify the cause of the accident. “A routine maintenance check before leaving Johannesburg and Addis Ababa didn’t reveal any problems. The pilot of flight ET 302 that crashed this morning had reported technical difficulties and asked for clearance to return to Addis Ababa,” Tewolde stated.
The victims were of 35 nationalities; 32 were Kenyan, 18 Canadian, 17 Ethiopian, 8 Chinese, 8 Italian, 8 American, 7 French, 7 British, 6 Egyptian, 5 Dutch, 4 UN passports holders and 4 Indians amongst others. Some of the deceased are from African countries like Egypt, Togo, Mozambique, Morocco, Sudan and Uganda. According to the South African government no South African was on board the tragic flight ET302.
Ethiopian Airlines, with a fleet of 108 aircraft and about 13500 staff is regarded as the continent’s biggest airline by number of passengers transported, fleet, staff and revenue. SAA with a fleet of 64 aircraft and EgyptAir (50) are the second and third biggest in Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has on Saturday expressed his great sadness and has extended the government’s condolences to those affected by the tragic crash. The President said the thoughts of South Africans are with the affected countries, especially the people of Ethiopia and Kenya.
The same type of aircraft of Indonesian Lion Air crashed in October 2018, 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers on board. The crash of flight ET 302 is regarded as Ethiopian Airlines’ deadliest ever , while its third deadliest accident took place in 2010 and involved a Boeing 737-800 that had just departed Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Lebanon; there were 90 people on board, of whom none survived.