Singapore—On Tuesday, March 12, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing condolences to the families of the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, which crashed last Sunday, March 10.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on 10 March 2019. The 157 victims come from many nationalities and include many United Nations staff who have died in the line of service. Our condolences and thoughts go out to the families of the victims in this time of profound grief.”
The flight took off from Addis Ababa on March 10 at 8:38 am, local time, and was bound for Nairobi, but crashed six minutes after takeoff. There were 8 crew members and 149 passengers on the flight. Passengers included staff from the United Nations, business travelers, and tourists. All 157 persons on board perished in the crash.
A national day of mourning was declared in Ethiopia on the following day, Monday, March 11, with many of the families of the bereaved gathered at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to mourn their loss.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office issued a statement, saying, “The House of People’s Representatives has declared Mar 11, 2019, a national day of mourning for citizens of all countries that have passed in this tragic accident.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also spoke up on the accident, tweeting, “Deeply saddened by the news this morning of the plane crash in Ethiopia, claiming the lives of all on board.”
Among the passengers were 22 employees of the World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration, all of which are organisations under the United Nations’ umbrella, who were on their way to the annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme, scheduled to begin on Monday, March 11, in Nairobi.
Almost five thousand heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials, and civil society representatives were expected to attend the assembly.
The flight crashed into a field around 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, with witnesses saying the plane was on fire when it crashed. The plane’s model was Boeing’s 737-800MAX and was brand new, and had been received by Ethiopian Airways only on November 15, 2018.
This is the same model as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October when all 189 people aboard were killed. It crashed just 13 minutes after takeoff.
According to Ethiopian Airlines, 32 of the casualties were from Kenya. Canada had 18 casualties, Ethiopia, 9, and the United States, China, France, and Italy had 8 each. The United Kingdom had 5 casualties, Egypt had 6, and Germany, 5.
On Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced the temporary suspension of the country’s Boeing 737 Max fleet of aircraft, starting from 2:00 pm local time.
Changi Airport is the sixth busiest around the globe and is a hub for flights to and from Asia, Europe, and the United States. Singapore is the first nation to ban all the variants of this particular fleet of aircraft, although several countries have also grounded the Max 8 model since the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The following airlines have been affected by the ban at Changi: Silk Air, China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air. All airlines are working with Changi officials in order to effect a smooth transition for passengers.
Ian Thomas, an aviation consultant, told the BBC, “This is sure to lead to significant flight cancellations and disruption to schedules as the airlines involved a switch to other aircraft types (assuming they are available).”
The European Union, the UK, and India have also grounded the Boeing 737 Max from flying over their airspace in order to ensure passenger safety.
However, US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told airlines on March 11 that it believes Boeing’s 737 Max 8 model to be airworthy, in spite of the crashes on Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines.