Tributes Pour In for Victims of Ethiopian Airlines Crash

Tributes and condolences are pouring in for the 157 people who lost their lives when an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed Sunday near Addis Ababa.

The victims were from at least 35 countries and included 22 United Nations staff members heading to a U.N. environmental conference in Nairobi.

Flags at the conference were lowered to half-staff Monday. The Nairobi conference and a General Assembly meeting in New York both opened with moments of silence.

“A global tragedy has hit close to home, and the United Nations is united in grief. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims, to the government and people of Ethiopia, and all these affected by this disaster,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in New York.

The victims were also remembered at U.N. refugee headquarters in Geneva and at the State Department in Washington.

“This particular flight was used regularly by humanitarian and development organizations in the region, people working each and every day to save lives and make the world just a little bit better place despite the risks,” the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mark Green, said Monday.

Menur Nur Mohamed lost his brother Ahmed on the doomed plane. Ahmed Nur Mohamed was the co-pilot.

“Me and my brother grew up together. He wasn’t only my brother, but also my friend,” Mohamed told Tsion Tadesse of VOA’s Horn of Africa service.

Mohamed said he learned of his brother’s death when the head of Ethiopian Airlines mentioned his name.

“[My brother] called me Saturday night to tell me has a flight Sunday morning and will call me when he gets back. But I didn’t know where he was flying. When I heard about the accident Sunday morning, I called his friends to find out where he flew. I was trying to calm down our parents when the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines gave the press conference,” Mohamed said.

Investigators have found the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, which they hope will give them clues as to why the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet went down en route to Nairobi.

At least two witnesses say they saw smoke coming from the back of the plane before it crashed.

Max 8 jets grounded

The Max 8 was the same model as the one that crashed into the Java Sea in October, just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing 189.

Indonesian investigators said information from the flight data recorder showed the plane’s automatic safety system repeatedly pushed it downward despite the pilots’ desperate attempts to maintain control.

But Ethiopian Airlines chief Tewolde GebreMariam said Sunday he could not rule out anything as the cause of Sunday’s crash.

“Ethiopian Airlines is one of the safest airlines in the world,” he told reporters at the crash site.

He stood inside the crater where the airliner went down. The ground was littered with jet parts and body bags.

The airline, along with carriers in China, Indonesia and the Cayman Islands, have grounded their Max 8 jets.

Boeing shares plunged 7 percent Monday on Wall Street.

Source: Voice of America