Nigeria: Buhari Mourns As Two Nigerians Die in Ethiopian Airlines Crash

Pius Adesanmi.
11 March 2019

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sympathised with the government and people of Ethiopia over the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner, which killed 149 passengers and eight crew members.

There were no survivors in the crashed Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302, operated by Boeing B737-800MAX, Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopia Airlines, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam said.

Two Nigerians, Professor Pius Adesanmi and Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, were among the victims of the ill-fated Ethiopia Airlines, which crashed yesterday morning on its way from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

The two Nigerians, however, did not travel with their Nigerian passports as Adesanmi travelled with his Canadian passport, while Abiodun travelled with United Nations passport.

Reacting to the news of the incident in Daura, Katsina State, yesterday, the president expressed shock, saying that the high casualty figure was worrying indeed.

Besides greeting the immediate families of the victims, Buhari sent condolences to the leaders and people of all the countries whose nationals were involved in the accident.

"On behalf of the government and the people of Nigeria, the president extends his sincere condolences to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, the people of Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, China and all other nations who lost citizens in the air disaster.

"The president also commiserates with the families of the victims and prays to God Almighty to grant the gentle souls of the departed eternal rest", a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying in Daura.

He added: "Such large scale loss of human lives in a single incident is shocking beyond words.

"I am profoundly touched by this devastating report of air accident involving one of the world's most successful and efficient airlines.

"Given its remarkable safety record, this couldn't have come at a worse time for Ethiopian Airlines."

The president further praised the airline, saying: "Like every other African leader, I am proud of the fact that Ethiopian Airlines represents one of Africa's success stories."

Flight ET302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometres south-east of the capital Addis Ababa, the airline said, confirming the plane was a Boeing 737-800 MAX.

The flight left Bole Airport in Addis Ababa at 8.38a.m. (12.38p.m. Thailand time), before losing contact with the Control Tower just a few minutes later at 8.44a.m.

State-owned Ethiopian Airline is one of the biggest carriers on the continent by fleet size.

It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers last year.

Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after takeoff.

The airline said it regretted that its flight with number ET 302, which took off from its Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019 to Nairobi was involved in an accident around Bishoftu (Debre Zeit).

GebreMariam, who arrived the site of the crash few hours after the accident at Bishoftu, confirmed that there was no survivor and expressed his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost lives in this tragic incident.

The flight's passengers have been traced to about 35 countries.

GebreMariam said pilots reported difficulties and asked for permission to turn back to Addis Ababa, but indications show that the flight crew could not make the air return, hence the crash.

Nationalities onboard include Kenyans, 32; Canadians, 18; Ethiopians, nine; USA, eight; Chinese, 8; Nigerians, two; seven British citizens, seven French, six Egyptians, five Netherlands, four passengers carrying UN passports and four Indians.

Other passengers are from Russia, Morocco, Israel, Uganda, Yemen, Sudan, Togo, Mozambique, and Norway.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed in his official tweeter handle said: "I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning."

In a press conference held at Ethiopian Airlines Headquarters yesterday afternoon regarding the crash, GebreMariam, remarked: "It is too early to speculate the cause of the accident and further investigation will be carried out to find out the cause of the accident in collaboration with all stakeholders, including the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and other international entities to maintain the international standard and information will be provided once the cause is identified. Ethiopian Airlines will provide all the necessary support to the families of the victims."

It was disclosed at the conference that a senior captain named Yared Getachew with a cumulative flight hour of more than 8,000 and with a commendable performance was commanding the flight along with first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur who had a flight hour of 200.

The crashed B-737-800MAX airplane flew back to Addis Ababa from Johannesburg early Sunday morning.

This is the second fatal accident involving Boeing 737MAX in less than five months.

About six months ago, A Lion Air Flight 610 operated by Boeing 737 MAX passenger plane with 189 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta on October 29, 2018.

Speaking yesterday to Al Jazeera from Malaga, Spain, aviation analyst, Alex Macheras explained that the B737 MAX is the brand new updated version of the Boeing 737.

"The MAX is in service all around the world. Airlines such as the Ethiopian Airlines are using this aircraft, as it is the latest, the most fuel-efficient, short-range Boeing aircraft on the market.

"The aircraft that has been involved in the accident today is less than four months old. It was delivered to Ethiopia in mid-November, when it flew from the US, made a fuel stop in Ireland, and was delivered to Addis Ababa, which is the hub of Ethiopian Airlines," he added.

Macheras said: "New aircraft do have their hiccups" but that is not to say they are unsafe or more prone to being involved in accidents.

"There are certain advisories for lots of new aircrafts and that's perfectly normal as they enter the market place."

The Boeing 737 MAX was initiated in response to Airbus's A320 Neo. Both planes feature modifications to make the aircraft more fuel-efficient.

"It's a very safe aircraft," Macheras said, adding: "But of course this accident will send jitters across the industry."

Bashua was the former UN and AU Deputy Joint Special Representative in Darfur, Sudan.

The literary and social community in Nigeria is shocked about the death of Adesanmi.

Adesanmi is a Nigerian-born Canadian professor, writer and literary critic, satirist, and columnist. He is the author of Naija No Dey Carry Last, a collection of satirical essays.

Adesanmi was born in Isanlu, in Yagba East Local Government Area of Kogi State, Nigeria. He had a BA (first class honours) from the University of Ilorin in 1992, a Masters in French from the University of Ibadan in 1998, and a PhD in French Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2002.

From 2002 to 2005, he was Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA.

In 2006, he joined Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada as a Professor of literature and African studies.

He has also been a Fellow of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) from 1993 to 1997, as well as of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in 1998 and 2000.

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