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Relatives of Ethiopian Airlines plane crash victims to receive remains


After seven months of waiting for DNA tests to be concluded, the families whose kin perished in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash will finally receive the remains of their loved ones on Monday, the Nation has established.

Nairobi-bound Flight ET 302 plunged into a field near Bishoftu on March 10 shortly after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. All 157 people on board died.

Passengers from 35 different nationalities died in the accident described by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a “global tragedy”.

Kenya suffered the heaviest loss in the crash that also claimed the lives of 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight Americans.

Some 214 days later, families have been unable to bury their kin. When they travelled to Addis Ababa to collect the bodies for burial, authorities could only give them charred earth from the crash site as there was hardly anything else.

DNA tests, they were told, could take up to six months, owing to the complexity of the process and the extensive damage to the bodies. That there were more than 30 different nationalities further complicated the process.

Families thus held requiem masses and prayers for their departed relatives, but with no bodies to bury. In Addis Ababa, 157 empty caskets were displayed soon after the accident, each for the departed soul.

Some families, though, said they would only get closure if at least some body parts are handed over to them. On Sunday, the family of John Quindos Karanja, who lost five members, told the Nation that they will ferry the remains of their loved ones to their Nakuru home ahead of burial on Thursday.

“We thank all Kenyans for the overwhelming emotional, spiritual and financial support towards our family,” said Mr Karanja, the family spokesman. On Monday (today) we shall be ferrying the remains of our loved ones after they were successfully identified.”

THE VICTIMS

The retired teacher lost five family members — his wife Ann Wangui, daughter Caroline Quinns and three grandchildren Ryan Njoroge, 7, Kellie Wanjiku, 5, Rubi Wangui, 9 months, who were living in Canada.

A Kipkelion family that lost their son Cosmas Kipng’etich Rogony also confirmed that they had travelled to Nairobi to pick up his remains for burial at their home in Saoset village, Kericho County.

“The family of the late Rogony travelled and are expected back by around Tuesday,” a relative told the Nation.

Until his death, Rogony was an employee of General Electric’s healthcare division. He left behind a daughter, aged one, and a 27-year old widow, Miriam Wanja.

The Ethiopian Airlines jet crash was the second such accident in five months involving the 737 Max 8 model, after the Lion Air disaster off the coast of Indonesia in which 189 people died in October 2018.

Already, some Kenyan families have been enjoined in a Sh100 billion compensation suit filed in US federal court by top US law firms. Boeing is the respondent in the case.

Chicago-based Ribbeck Law Chartered, which specialises in aviation disaster cases, and the Global Aviation Law Group, a partnership of US global law firms and lawyers, are representing 66 families of passengers who perished in the crashes involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 in which a total of 346 lives were lost.