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Ethiopian Airlines victims included academics and UN workers striving for ‘a better place for us all’

Updated

March 12, 2019 21:05:40

Photo:
The crash killed 157 people including luminaries from literature and archaeology. (ABC News)

A prize-winning author, a football official and a team of humanitarian workers were among those who perished in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 30, government officials and employers say.

Sunday’s crash, minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa for a flight to Nairobi, inflicted a particularly heavy toll on the United Nations, which has large offices in both cities.

When the plane plummeted into the ground just six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 people on board, the world was “united in grief”, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said.

Speaking at an environment summit where many passengers were due to arrive, he paid homage to those lives lost.

“They all had one thing in common — a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all,” he said.

At least 21 staff members were on board, said Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesman.

The Addis Ababa-Nairobi route is also popular with tourists and business people, who are drawn to East Africa‘s popular safari parks and fast-growing economies.

There were no survivors and the 157 victims, including 149 passengers and eight crew members, came from more than 30 countries, the airline said.

They included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight each from Italy, China and the United States.

These are some of their stories.

Humanitarian workers

The number of UN staff members and aid workers from other agencies on board may have been higher than usual because of a week-long conference convened by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in Nairobi, which opened on Monday.

The dead included Joanna Toole, a British woman working as a fisheries consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Victor Tsang, a Hong Kong native who worked in Nairobi for the UNEP.


Photo:
Britain’s Joanna Toole was heading to Nairobi to attend the United Nations Environment Assembly. (Facebook: Joanna Toole)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the organisation was in mourning.

“Our colleagues were women and men — junior professionals and seasoned officials — hailing from all corners of the globe and with a wide array of expertise,” Mr Guterres said.

The World Food Program said it had seven staff members on board.

They included Michael Ryan, a 39-year-old engineer from Ireland.

His work projects included creating safe conditions for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and assessing the damage to rural roads in Nepal that were blocked by landslides.

His mother, Christine Ryan, told Irish broadcaster RTE “he never wanted a 9 to 5 job”.

“He put everything into his work,” she said.

Also among the dead were four Catholic Relief Services employees from Ethiopia.

Another Ethiopian was Tamirat Mulu Demessie, a technical adviser on child protection in emergencies for Save the Children who “worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable children are safe during humanitarian crises,” the group said in a statement.

Sarah Auffret, a staffer for the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, was on the way to Nairobi to talk about a Clean Seas project in connection with the UN Environment Assembly this week, the company said in a statement.


Photo:
Sarah Auffret was an Arctic marine environmental leader. (AP: AECO)

Literature, archaeological and botany laureates

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian-born professor with the English Language and Literature Department at Carleton University in Ottawa, was among the victims from Canada.

He was awarded the Penguin Prize for African Writing in non-fiction in 2010 for his collection of essays, You’re Not a Country, Africa!

“Pius Adesanmi was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship, and his sudden loss is a tragedy,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, the university‘s president.

A fellow writer, the Nigerian satirist Elnathan John, said his friend had recently been injured in a car accident.

He recalled hosting Mr Adesanmi in Berlin recently.

“He was still limping a bit,” Mr John said on Twitter.

“He told me how lucky he was to survive his car crash. He loved his hotel. We laughed about dressing alike.”


Photo:
Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian-born professor from Ottawa, Canada, was one of the victims. (AP: Josh Hotz, courtesy of Carleton University)

The Italian victims included Sebastiano Tusa, an archaeologist and councillor for cultural affairs in the regional Government of Sicily.

He was travelling to Kenya for a UNESCO conference on protecting underwater cultural heritage in East Africa, according to Italian media reports.

Glato Kodjo, a professor of Botanical Studies at the University of Lomé in the west African nation of Togo, and two lecturers at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Agnes Kathumbi and Isaac Mwangi Minae, were also reported killed.

Ethiopian crew and passengers

Tearful colleagues mourned Ethiopian Airlines pilot Yared Getachew and first officer Ahmed Noorh, along with the other crew members who lost their lives.

Mr Getachew sent out a distress call seeking permission to return shortly after taking off.

Another Ethiopian Airlines captain, Estifanos Mulugeta, said that he had flown to Nairobi with Mr Getachew several times and said he liked flying to Nairobi because his parents lived there.

A first officer, Hamza Jemal, said Mr Noorh had been going to Nairobi to pursue a business venture and had managed to rearrange his schedule to be on the flight.


Photo:
Relatives have mourned Sara Gebremichael, a senior host and a crew leader for Ethiopian Airlines. (Reuters: Maheder Haileselassie)

Family members mourned for Sara Gebremichael, 38, a senior air host and a crew leader who was among the dead.

In total, nine Ethiopians were killed.

Kenya lost the most nationals

The destination country suffered the most fatalities, with 32 victims.

Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation, was named among the dead by Sofapaka Football Club.

He was returning home after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.


Photo:
Legal scholar Cedric Asiavugwa was passionate about social justice. (Georgetown University)

Cedric Asiavugwa, who studied international business and economic law at Georgetown University in Washington, was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother, the university said in a statement.

According to Georgetown’s website, he was passionate about social justice and refugees, and he helped found an organisation to protect vulnerable women and children fleeing war in Somalia.

He also described himself as an ardent support of Manchester United.

The aid organisation CARE says Kenyan colleague Immaculate Odero was among the crash victims.

A statement says she had been a regional security officer for the Horn of Africa, “dedicated to keeping her colleagues in the region safe”.

She took on her role “with great enthusiasm”. It says she was married, with a daughter.

ABC/wires

Topics:

air-and-space,

disasters-and-accidents,

community-and-society,

human-interest,

pollution-disasters-and-safety,

ethiopia,

kenya

First posted

March 12, 2019 08:33:20

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