Ethiopia: Interpol Identifies Remains of March 10 Ethiopian Airlines Crash Victims

12 September 2019

Nairobi — The International Police Incident Response Team (IRT) has identified the remains of all victims of the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash, 48 of whom were matched through fingerprints.

"The INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT) deployed following the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane in March has completed its task, assisting with the successful identification of all victims of the deadly disaster," INTERPOL announced in an emailed statement on Thursday.

157 passengers of 35 nationalities including 36 Kenyans and 22 United Nations affiliated travelers died when flight ET 302 plunged into the ground in Bishoftu, southeast of the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, six minutes after takeoff for a routine flight to Nairobi.

INTERPOL said 100 Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts from 14 countries including Africa, the Americas and Europe worked with the agency's IRT during a mission that lasted 50 days to identify victims of the tragic accident that is subject of multiple wrongful death lawsuits filed against plane manufacture Boeing in the United States.

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock described the successful identification of the victims as of immense importance and critical to bringing closure to families that suffered the loss of their loved ones.

"In the wake of such a tragedy, the accurate identification of the victims is of immense importance to the families who are suffering from their loss," he said.

The Lyon-based organization said in its statement: "IRT worked to ensure that identification efforts were conducted in accordance with international DVI standards and assisted with assembling fingerprint and DNA samples."

According to INTERPOL a Special Representative Office at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa coordinated the process following a request by Ethiopian authorities, two days after the ET302 crash.

"Mobilizing its global network of National Central Bureaus, INTERPOL centralized the collection of DNA materials from the families of the victims to aid in the identification process. The DNA samples were sent to a specialized laboratory for analysis," the agency noted.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb Macharia Kamau had on March 21 told relatives of the 32 Kenyan passport holders and four others who held foreign passports not to be fixated on a six-month timeline given by the airline within which DNA results were to be released, saying the process could take longer.

The ministry however assured at the time that its officials will be available to assist relatives with the process of obtaining death certificates.

"To isolate DNA of individual people is a task that will be enormous and so I think this target the airline has given itself is very ambitious," Amb Kamau said.

"What I'd advise is that emotionally you make a very conscious decision not to watch the calendar on this issue because if you do, you'll stress yourselves considerably. This could take a very long time," he urged.

Kenya had particularly urged patience in the light of a complex identification process of "isolating individuals' DNA remains," what Kamau at the time described as "commingled DNA of passengers on board the aircraft commingled with whatever else was on the plane."

Kenyan families are among those seeking compensation form Boeing, the manufacturer of the ill-fated Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed in March.

The plane was grounded internationally following the ET302 crash after several airlines suspended its operations following safety concerns on the reliability of angle-of-attack sensors and the now infamous Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) which relays on angle-of-attack sensor readings to alter the pitch of the plane to prevent stalling.

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