Wednesday 23 October 2019

Ethiopia crash data 'similar to previous 737 Max 8 disaster'

A woman mourns next to coffins during the funeral of crash victims in Addis Ababa. Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri
A woman mourns next to coffins during the funeral of crash victims in Addis Ababa. Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

Elias Meseret

Preliminary data retrieved from the flight recorder of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed shows "a clear similarity" with an earlier disaster in Indonesia, government officials have revealed.

Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said the government intends to release detailed findings within one month.

"The black box has been found in a good condition that enabled us to extract almost all the data inside," she said last night.

Officials say 157 people from 35 different countries - including Micheál Ryan from Ireland - were killed when the Nairobi-bound plane crashed shortly after take-off. The US and many other countries then grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 as it had also been used in the Lion Air crash in October in Indonesia.

Suspicions emerged that faulty sensors and software may have contributed to the two crashes in less than six months.

The US Federal Aviation Administration already has said satellite-based tracking data showed that the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed off Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.

The planes in both crashes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Shortly after their take-offs, both crews tried to return to the airports but crashed.

Earlier yesterday, thousands in the capital of Addis Ababa mourned the country's victims in the crash, accompanying 17 empty caskets draped in the national flag through the streets of the capital. Some victims' relatives fainted and fell to the ground.

The service came one day after officials began delivering bags of earth to family members of the 157 victims of the crash instead of the remains of their loved ones because the identification process is expected to take a long time.

Family members confirmed they were given a 1kg sack of scorched earth taken from the crash site. Many relatives already have gathered at the rural, dusty crash site outside Ethiopia's capital.

"The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members," one family member said. "We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones."

Forensic DNA work has begun on identifying the remains but it may take six months to identify the victims.

However, authorities say they will issue death certificates within two weeks.

Interpol and Blake Emergency Services, hired by Ethiopian Airlines, will work with Ethiopian police and health officials to identify the bodies,

In Paris, investigators started studying the cockpit voice recorder of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet on Saturday.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA also said work resumed on the flight's data recorders.

The recorders, also known as black boxes, were sent to France because the BEA has extensive expertise in analysing such devices.

Irish Independent

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