An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board and raising questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new model that also crashed in Indonesia in October.
In another plane crash, fourteen people were killed in the Colombian plains province of Meta on Saturday, the country’s civil aviation agency said.
Sunday’s the Ethiopian Airlines flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38am (05:38 GMT), before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later at 8:44am.
‘There are no survivors,’ the airline tweeted alongside a picture of CEO Tewolde GebreMariam holding up a piece of debris inside a large crater at the crash site.
Passengers from 33 countries were aboard, said Tewolde in a news conference. The dead included Kenyan, Ethiopian, American, Canadian, French, Chinese, Egyptian, Swedish, British, Dutch, Indian, Slovakian, Austrian, Swedish, Russian, Moroccan, Spanish, Polish, and Israeli citizens.
Weeping relatives begged for information at airports in Nairobi and Addis Ababa.
‘We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone,’ said Wendy Otieno, clutching her phone and weeping.
The aircraft, a 737 MAX 8, is the same model that crashed into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on October 29, killing all 189 people on board the Lion Air flight.
The cause of that crash is still under investigation.
Ethiopian’s new aircraft had no recorded technical problems and the pilot had an ‘excellent’ flying record, Tewolde said in a news conference.
‘We received the airplane on November 15, 2018. It has flown more than 1,200 hours. It had flown from Johannesburg earlier this morning,’ he said. ‘The pilot mentioned that he had difficulties and that he wanted to return.’
Flight ET 302, registration number ET-AVJ, crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 km southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, with 149 passengers and eight crew aboard, the airline said.
The flight had unstable vertical speed after takeoff, the flight tracking website Flightradar24 tweeted.
The aircraft had shattered into many pieces and was severely burnt, a Reuters reporter at the scene of the crash said. Clothing and personal effects were scattered widely over the field where the plane came down.
It was not clear what had caused the crash. Boeing sent condolences to the families and said it was ready to help investigate.
This is the second recent crash of the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrowbody jet that first entered service in 2017. The 737 is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and one of the industry’s most reliable.
A preliminary report into the October Lion Air crash, focused on airline maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but did not give a reason for the crash. Since then, the cockpit voice recorder was recovered and a final report is due later this year.
At Nairobi airport, many relatives were left waiting at the gate for hours, with no information from airport authorities. Some learned of the crash from journalists.
Robert Mutanda, 46, was waiting for his brother-in-law, a Canadian citizen.
‘No, we haven’t seen anyone from the airline or the airport,’ he told Reuters at 1:00pm, more than three hours after the flight was lost. ‘Nobody has told us anything, we are just standing here hoping for the best.’
Kenyan officials did not arrive at the airport until 1:30pm, five hours after the plane went down.
James Macharia, the cabinet secretary for transport, said he heard about the crash via Twitter.
Families were taken to Nairobi’s Sheraton hotel, but said they were still waiting to hear from airline staff eight hours after the accident.
In Colombian plane crash, the Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics said there were no survivors of the crash, which occurred after the DC-3 aircraft made a distress call at 10:40am local time (15:40 GMT).
The plane, which is owned by Laser Aereo airlines, was en route from the southern city of San Jose del Guaviare to central Villavicencio, the agency said.
It crashed about midway through its flight, in San Carlos de Guaroa municipality.
The airline said it had no immediate comment.
In a later statement posted on Twitter, the agency named those who had died, including the mayor of a small town in the jungle province of Vaupes.
The aircraft’s navigability permissions were up-to-date, as were the medical certifications of its crew, the agency added.
Meanwhile, a Turkish Airlines passenger jet travelling from Istanbul to New York hit severe turbulence Saturday as it approached its destination, with 30 people suffering injuries before it landed safely, officials said, reports AFP.
The injured were taken from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport to local hospitals, mainly for treatment of bumps, cuts and bruises.
One flight attendant suffered a broken leg, according to Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area’s airports, bus terminals, bridges and tunnels.
The Boeing 777 - which had 326 passengers and 21 crew on board - was over the Atlantic Ocean, about 45 minutes from landing, when it struck the turbulence, Coleman said.
Airport operations were not disrupted as a result of the incident, he added.
Turkish Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier in the day, a plane operated by Canada’s Air Transat made an emergency landing at another New York area airport - in Newark, New Jersey - after smoke was detected in the cargo hold, the company said.
The Boeing 737-800, which had 189 passengers on board, was travelling from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No one was injured, a spokeswoman for Air Transat said.
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