Seven British passengers among 157 people killed in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, looks at the wreckage of the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa.
The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, looks at the wreckage of the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa.

Seven British passengers were among the 157 people killed in an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash, Kenya has said.

Transport secretary James Macharia has told reporters that 149 passengers from at least 35 countries were on board the flight that crashed on Sunday morning.

Seven passengers were from the UK, he said.

The cause of the crash of the new Boeing 737-8 MAX plane was not immediately known.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa, calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions to become the gateway to the continent.

The crash occurred around 31 miles south of the capital, shortly after taking off, the airline said.

A statement by the Ethiopian prime minister’s office offered its “deepest condolences” to families.

The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010, when the plane crashed minutes after take-off from Beirut, killing all 90 people on board.

Sunday’s crash comes as the country’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centred economy.

Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding assertively, recently opening a route to Moscow and in January inaugurating a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.

Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new “Airport City” terminal in Bishoftu - where Sunday’s crash occurred.

Records show that the Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane that crashed was a new one.

The Planespotters civil aviation database shows that the plane was delivered to the airline in mid-November.

“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” said Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta.