The flight route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, to Nairobi, Kenya, is sometimes referred to as a “U.N. shuttle” because of how often United Nations staff members take it.
On Sunday, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plummeted to the ground shortly after takeoff, killing more than 150 people, the plane had a particularly high concentration of United Nations employees: At least 22 staff members died in the crash, a United Nations official said on Monday.
The airline said the flight had passengers from at least 30 countries, some of whom were aid workers for other humanitarian organizations.
The dead included at least 32 Kenyans; 18 Canadians; nine each from Ethiopia and France; eight each from the United States, China, and Italy; and seven from Britain, according to the airline, officials and news accounts. The identities of many of the victims, including the Americans, have not been released
The World Food Program of the United Nations said seven of its employees died. Six employees from the United Nations office in Nairobi were killed, the organization said, and two from the International Telecommunications Union also died. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva said three of the agency’s staff died.
Addis Ababa and Nairobi are home to United Nations offices. But the flight between the cities may have been carrying a particularly high number of United Nations workers because it was the day before a session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, described as the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. The event, which starts on Monday, brings together representatives from United Nations member states to address environmental problems.
A spokesman for António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said the organization was working with the Ethiopian authorities to establish the identities of its employees aboard the flight.
A British citizen, Joanna Toole, was on her way to the environmental assembly as a representative of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, according to a tweet from the head of her department, fisheries, and aquaculture.
A Nairobi-based staff member with the United Nations Environment Program and an employee of Aviation Industry Corporation of China were two of the Chinese citizens killed, according to a list of victims provided by the country’s embassy in Kenya, The Global Times reported.
Pius Adesanmi, a professor with the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, was among the victims from Canada, the university confirmed. Professor Adesanmi, who was also associated with the university’s English department, was a prominent public intellectual in his native Nigeria, where he regularly published political essays.
In 2010 he was awarded the Penguin Prize for African writing in the nonfiction category for a manuscript that was published the following year in the book “You’re Not a Country, Africa.”
“Pius was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy,” Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president, and vice-chancellor of the university said in a statement.
Professor Adesanmi, who held both Canadian and Nigerian citizenship, was injured last year in a serious car crash in Nigeria. Before Sunday’s flight, he posted on Facebook a photo of himself holding his Canadian passport, along with the text of Psalm 139:9-10.
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,” the post read, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year Georgetown Law student who was traveling home to Nairobi, was confirmed dead by Georgetown University officials. Mr. Asiavugwa worked with refugees and started a community-based organization to protect women and children fleeing conflicts in Somalia, according to message officials sent out Sunday.
“With his passing, the Georgetown family has lost a stellar student, a great friend to many, and a dedicated champion for social justice across East Africa and the world,” the message said.
Among those killed were members of nonprofit and humanitarian groups.
Tamirat Mulu Demessie, a child protection specialist from Ethiopia who worked for the nonprofit Save the Children, was killed, according to a statement from the organization. Mr. Demessie worked with programs for children affected by violence and helped reunite children with their families during emergencies.
“He often sacrificed time with his own family and children to live out his passion for protection work,” said Lara Martin, a friend, and former colleague. “He challenged and empowered everyone that worked with him to do more for children, holding perpetrators accountable.”
Among the dead from Italy were Paolo Dieci, a founder of the nongovernmental organization International Committee for the Development of Peoples; Maria Pilar Buzzetti and Virginia Chimenti, employees of the World Food Program; and Sebastian Tusa, a councilor of cultural heritage from Sicily. Mr. Tusa was traveling to Malindi, Kenya, to attend a Unesco conference on safeguarding underwater cultural heritage in Eastern Africa.
Jonathan Seex, a chief executive who oversaw the Tamarind Group, a company that operates restaurants and hospitality establishments in Kenya, was also among those killed, according to a Facebook post by the Tamarind Tree Hotel.
Chinese news websites said that the eight Chinese killed included tourists and businesspeople, and the Russian Embassy confirmed the death of three Russian citizens.
A Serbian state news agency said Djordje Vdovic of Serbia, who worked at the World Food Program, was also killed. Michael Ryan, an Irish citizen who worked for the organization, was also on the flight, according to an Irish news site, RTÉ News.
Anton Hrnko, a member of the Slovakian parliament, said on Facebook that his wife, Blanka; his son Martin; and his daughter Michala died in the crash.
The airline identified the pilot as Yared Getachew and the first officer as Ahmednur Mohammed. It said Mr. Getachew had more than 8,000 flight hours and described his performance as “commendable.” A statement from his family said that Mr. Getachew, 29, was a “confident captain” and that it was “incredibly proud of his achievements.”
Anthony Ngare, a journalist who worked with the Kenyan government to promote press freedoms, was among the dead, according to The Standard, the newspaper where he once worked. “His colleagues remembered him as an ardent advocate for press freedom and safety of journalists in Kenya,” the newspaper reported.
Source: Newyork Times