Family honors dream of son lost in Ethiopia plane crash

By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Frustrated by incompetence and corruption in his native Kenya, Jared Babu, a 28-year-old activist and entrepreneur, set up a program to train high school students about leadership.

When he and his young wife Mercy were killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash a year ago, leaving a baby daughter, it looked like his dreams might die with him.

But Jared’s family wants to ensure his vision lives on.

“If you don’t teach integrity, the consequences are catastrophic,” said his dad Joshua Babu in a leafy backyard of their home in a Nairobi suburb. Jared’s daughter Emmy – now two – clambered over family members before pointing at a big photo of her parents and saying “mama” and “daddy”.

Jared’s parents blame his death on a failure of leadership by U.S. aviation giant Boeing – which designed the 737 MAX plane that crashed – and U.S. authorities, who failed to ground the plane after a similar crash in Indonesia five months earlier.

On Friday, U.S. lawmakers released preliminary findings into the two crashes faulting the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the plane and Boeing’s design.

And on Monday, an interim report by Ethiopia’s government said a faulty sensor reading and the activation of an anti-stall system preceded the crash, which killed 157 people.

Boeing did not immediately comment on the report.

Last week, however, David Calhoun, Boeing’s new chief executive, told The New York Times there were “weaknesses in our leadership” but also raised questions over the pilots’ abilities in both crashes.


Jared’s mother Emily has no doubt where the blame lies: the same issue her son spent his life trying to fix. “There are so many sources that are pointing to the fact there was a laxity in the issues of (Boeing’s) governance,” she told Reuters.

Jared, she said, set a different example. She smiled with pride as she recalled the time he chose to go to court rather than pay a small bribe for a minor motoring offense.

He posted a picture of himself in the dock online, she said, encouraging others to face honest punishment for their mistakes.

His wife Mercy worked with a local children’s home to educate students there. “They did not deserve to die. They did not deserve to die,” Emily Babu repeated on the edge of tears.

Jared’s businessman father Joshua said he would continue Jared’s role in “You and I”, the mentorship organization Jared founded with his best friend Simon Kioko in 2016.

The group’s name came from Jared’s habit of telling people who needed to change the world.

So far, the group has worked with about 2,000 students during pilot programs in more than a dozen high schools, said Kioko. They will hold a formal launch on March 20 to expand the program and talk about Jared’s legacy.

“We can’t all just sit back and grumble,” said Joshua Babu. “Jared always said, ‘it is for you and I to make the change we want to see’.”

(Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)