Families mark first anniversary of Ethiopian 737 MAX crash

By Giulia Paravicini

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Families who lost loved ones aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 visited the crash site on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy, a day after interim results of a probe focused on faulty systems on the Boeing 737 MAX jet.

The accident killed all 157 people on board when the new Boeing plunged into farmland six minutes after taking off from the capital. It was the second accident involving the 737 MAX in five months and led to the plane being grounded worldwide.

People from 33 nations were aboard Flight 302, many of them working with the United Nations, and hundreds of relatives and friends from across the world traveled to Ethiopia for the memorial.

Families from countries including Canada, the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Italy and France attended the ceremony at the crash site, about a three-hour drive from the capital, Addis Ababa.

The program included a tree planting and the reading out of victims’ names, organizers said. Police set up a roadblock a kilometer from the site to prevent the public from attending.

At the United Nations offices in Addis Ababa, friends and families lit candles in front of wreaths in honor of loved ones and colleagues.

“We are traumatized all over again,” said Huguette Debets, who lost her husband Jackson Musoni, father of their three children.

“I want the world to never forget these horrific plane crashes…it could happen to any of us and it should never happen again.”

In a separate event, employees of Ethiopian Airlines gathered at the pilots’ association, where pictures of the dead were lined by arrangements of white roses, the traditional color of mourning in Ethiopia.

A small string orchestra played as a slideshow displayed pictures of the dead in happier times.

Getachew Tessema, the father of the captain, said his family had been filled with pride when his son began working for the airline.

“He died at the tender age of 29. The only hope I have is to see him in the afterlife. Our wounds will never heal.”

The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling aircraft, remains grounded. The plane maker has lost billions of dollars since the Ethiopian crash and an October 2018 accident involving Indonesia’s Lion Air, which killed all 189 people aboard.

Boeing’s CEO was forced to step down and the company is facing hundreds of lawsuits from bereaved families.

Monday’s interim report from Ethiopia’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau bolstered the findings of Ethiopia’s initial assessment, which linked the crash to the plane’s MCAS anti-stall software.

It identified no issues with the airline or the pilots’ handling of the plane.

Inaccurate sensor readings activated the plane’s MCAS anti-stall system, pushing the nose of the aircraft lower as the pilots struggled to control it, the report said.

For an interactive graphic on the Ethiopian Airlines crash, go to: https://graphics.reuters.com/ETHIOPIA-AIRPLANE/0100911Q1DX/index.html

For a map of the crash location, go to: https://graphics.reuters.com/ETHIOPIAN-AIRPLANE/010091121CR/ETHIOPIA-AIRPLANE.jpg

(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; additional reporting by Kumerra Gemechu in Addis Ababa; writing by Omar Mohammed and Katharine Houreld; editing by Jason Neely, David Goodman and Mike Collett-White)