In Brief

Ethiopian Airlines crash: seven Britons among the dead

Boeing 737 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing 149 passengers and eight crew

Seven Britons were among 157 people killed when an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa yesterday.

The Boeing 737 had 149 passengers and eight crew members on board when it lost contact with air traffic control minutes after departing for the Kenyan capital Nairobi yesterday morning.

The cause of the crash remains unclear, but airline officials said the pilot had reported difficulties and asked for permission to turn back.  

An eyewitness at the crash site near the town of Bishoftu told the BBC that the aircraft burst into flames when it hit the ground.

“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down. No one will survive.”

Officials confirmed that passengers from more than 30 countries died in the crash, including 32 Kenyans, 18 people from Canada, nine Ethiopians, eight Americans and seven Britons.

Delegates heading to a UN environmental meeting set to begin in Nairobi today were among those killed in the crash, according to Al Jazeera reporter Catherine Wambua-Soi.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who visited the crash site, expressed his “profound sadness at the loss of life and wishes healing to the friends and families of the bereaved”.

The 737 Max-8 aircraft was only launched in 2016 and added to the Ethiopian Airlines fleet last year. It is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in Jakarta in October, killing 234 people.

Ethiopia Airline’s last major crash was in January, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off, killing all 90 passengers and crew onboard.

But aviation analyst Alex Macheras says the airline has a good safety record overall.

“It’s one of the largest in Africa and they operate very safely, very securely,” he said. “They are one of the most trusted airlines in Africa. It’s in line with all safety standards around the world.”

In a statement, Boeing said it is “deeply saddened” by yesterday’s crash and promised to provide technical assistance to investigators on the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board, a US-based independent agency that investigates aviation accidents, also announced that it would send a team to help investigate the cause of the crash.

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