Prize-winning author, 21 UN. workers among dead in Ethiopian Airlines crash

Published March 12, 2019, 9:24 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – 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 said on Monday.

Clothing and personal effects from passengers are seen near the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Clothing and personal effects from passengers are seen near the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Neger

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.

At least 21 staff members were on board, said Stephane Dujarric, a U.N. 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.

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.

There were no survivors.

The number of U.N. 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 U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, which opened on Monday.

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

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world body was in grief.

“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,” Guterres said. “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.”

The WFP said it had seven staff members on board. They included Michael Ryan, a 39-year-old engineer from Ireland.

“Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues & friends,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Twitter.

Also among the dead were four Catholic Relief Services employees from Ethiopia. Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Mulusew Alemu were headed to Nairobi for training, their employer said.

Josefin Ekermann, 30, who worked for the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders, was among at least four Swedish citizens on the flight, according to her NGO and government.

Karoline Aadland, a 28-year-old Norwegian Red Cross worker, was also on her way to Kenya for work, her employer said. She had recently gotten married.

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 a collection of essays titled, “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 Adesanmi in Berlin recently.

“He was still limping a bit,” 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.”

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

Kenya suffered the heaviest losses with at least 32 citizens killed.

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Jared Mwazo Babu, who founded a Nairobi-based marketing agency, and his wife, Mercy Ndivo, both died, colleagues confirmed. They left behind a 15-month-old daughter.

The Tamarind Group, a Kenyan restaurant and leisure company, said it lost its chief executive, Jonathan Seex.

Also among the dead were Grace Kariuki, an epidemiologist working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Nairobi, and Hussein Swaleh, a senior official with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), their employers said.

Swaleh was returning to Nairobi from Egypt, where he served as a match commissioner in Friday’s African Champions League game between Ismaili and TP Mazembe Englebert

“Football has indeed lost a dedicated and hardworking individual that lived the game,” FKF said.

Anton Hrnko, a lawmaker from Slovakia, shared his “deep grief” after his wife, Blanka, and two grown children, Martin and Michala, died in the crash.

They were among four Slovaks killed. The fourth victim was identified as Danica Olexova, an aid worker.

Husband and wife Aleksandr and Ekaterina Polyakov, who both worked for Russia’s Sberbank, were among at least three Russians on board. They were on holiday when they died, local media reported.

Alalo Christine, a senior police officer from Uganda on assignment with the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, also died in the crash, Uganda’s police force said. She was returning to the Somali capital Mogadishu from Italy.