Bishoftu, ETHIOPIA – The identity of the Ugandan national who died in the Sunday crash involving an Ethiopian Airlines jet has remained a mystery.
The airline, flight ET302, with 149 passengers and eight crew members, has crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all on board.
One Ugandan was on board while 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, eight Americans and seven British nationals were among the passengers.
Whereas there were reports that Commissioner of Police Christine Alalo serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia was on board the fateful plane, it later emerged that this was not true.
Police Political Commissar Asan Kasingye, in an interview, confirmed that Alalo was not part of the crash victims and that she is safe.
Other report indicated that the victim was Amos Namanya, who hails from Kiruhura District. We were unable to verify this by presstime.
Meanwhile, Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame sent condolences to families of the deceased.
“I have, with sadness, received news about the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight which was destined for Nairobi from Addis Ababa. On Uganda’s behalf, I send heartfelt prayers and condolences to all those affected by this tragedy,” President Museveni said.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta said: “We are saddened by the news of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger aircraft that is reported to have crashed six minutes after take-off en route to Kenya. My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board”.
President Kagame said they stand with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the people of Ethiopia.
“Our thoughts are with you,” he said.
The crash happened at 08:44 am, six minutes after the months-old Boeing 737 Max-8 took off.
The cause of the disaster is not yet clear. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, the airline said.
“At this stage, we cannot rule out anything,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.
“We cannot also attribute the cause to anything because we will have to comply with the international regulation to wait for the investigation.
Visibility was said to be good but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 reported that the plane’s “vertical speed was unstable after take-off”.
An eyewitness at the scene is quoted by the BBC as saying that there was an intense fire as the aircraft hit the ground.
“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down.”
The first word of the crash came when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his “deepest condolences” on Twitter.
Recovery operations were under way near the crash site around the town of Bishoftu, which is 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital.
The plane was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines on 15 November last year. It underwent “rigorous first check maintenance” on 4 February, the airline tweeted.