British UN worker among 157 killed in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

A United Nations worker has been named as one of the seven British passengers who were among 157 people killed when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after take-off.

Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Devon, was said to have been among those killed on the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane destined for Nairobi when it hit the ground six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Colleagues at the United Nations fisheries and aquaculture department described her as a "wonderful human being", while her father said she was a "very soft and loving" woman.

The Foreign Office confirmed that at least seven Britons were on board flight ET302, which crashed in Ethiopia at about 8.45am local time leaving no survivors.

Ethiopian Airlines said an Irish citizen was also on board, while the Irish foreign ministry said officials were supporting a family.

The airline said it had contacted the families of all victims, who came from 35 nations.

Ms Toole's father Adrian, from Exmouth, told the DevonLive website: "Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did, we're still in a state of shock. Joanna was genuinely one of those people who you never heard a bad word about."

Manuel Barange, a UN director, said he was "profoundly sad and lost for words" over her death, saying she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the organisation at the UN Environment Assembly.

He tweeted: "A wonderful human being, who loved her work with a passion. Our love to her family and loved ones."

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of the disaster.

"At this very difficult time my thoughts are with the families and friends of the British citizens on board and all those affected by this tragic incident," she said.

Ethiopia Plane Crash
Rescuers use a digger at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after take-off (Yidnek Kirubel/AP)

Their identities started to emerge, with Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko saying "in deep grief" that his wife and two children were killed in the crash.

Aid workers, doctors and a prominent football official were also believed to be among the dead.

While the cause is not yet known, the crash shared similarities with last year's Lion Air jet plunging into the Java sea, killing 189. That also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashing minutes after takeoff.

Ethiopian Airlines Group press conference on flight ET 302 accident

Posted by Ethiopian Airlines on Sunday, March 10, 2019

On Sunday, visibility was clear but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said "vertical speed was unstable after take off".

The pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all clear to return, according to the airline's chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam.

Senior captain Yared Getachew had a "commendable performance" having completed more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.

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People walk past a part of the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Ethiopian plane crash today LIVE Updates: The Ethiopian prime minister's official Twitter also expressed condolences to families of those lost in the crash.
A Chinese group look at the arrival flight schedule as informing about their colleagues who were allegedly onboard the plane that crashed in Ethiopia, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 2019. - An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed on March 10 morning en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi with 149 passengers and eight crew believed to be on board, Ethiopian Airlines said. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese group send messages as informing about their colleagues who were allegedly onboard the plane that crashed in Ethiopia, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 2019. - An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed on March 10 morning en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi with 149 passengers and eight crew believed to be on board, Ethiopian Airlines said. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members of the victims involved in a plane crash react at Addis Ababa international airport Sunday, March 10, 2019. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said, as anxious families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
Family members arrive at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, March 10, 2019, to check on information on the Ethiopian flight that crashed. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said. (AP Photo/Elias Masseret)
An Ethiopian Airports Enterprise fire engine drives to the scene of the Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
An Ethiopian Airports Enterprise fire engine drives to the scene of the Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
An Ethiopian Airports Enterprise fire engine drives to the scene of the Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
A general view shows the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
A passenger safety instruction card is seen at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
People walk at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
A general view shows the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Relatives of the victims involved in a plane crash wait for information Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, March 10, 2019. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said, as anxious families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Passengers wait outside the Bole International airport Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, March 10, 2019. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said, as anxious families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
Family members arrive at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, March 10, 2019, to check on information on the Ethiopian flight that crashed. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said. (AP Photo/Elias Masseret)
In this photo taken from the Ethiopian Airlines Facebook page, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, looks at the wreckage of the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday March 10, 2019. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said, as anxious families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (Facebook via AP)
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The plane had flown from Johannesburg to Addis earlier on Sunday morning, and had undergone a "rigorous" testing on February 4, a statement continued.

Records show the plane was new and delivered to the airline as recently as November.

An eyewitness told the BBC there was an intense fire when the plane crashed.

"The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn't get near it," he said. "Everything is burnt down. There are four helicopters at the scene now."

Mr Gebremariam was pictured leafing through what little was left of the wreckage as he visited the freshly ground earth under the blue sky of Ethiopia's capital.

Tewolde Gebremariam looks at the wreckage
Tewolde Gebremariam looks at the wreckage (Facebook via AP)

Minister Therese Coffey said no officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were on board, though she suspected some of the passengers had been travelling to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

UK investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are likely to be communicating with their counterparts in Ethiopia to keep next-of-kin informed.

Very sad to hear of the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi and the death of all passengers on board. I anticipate that several passengers will have been travelling to the UN Environment Assembly, though no one from Defra was on board. RIP.

— Therese Coffey (@theresecoffey) March 10, 2019

Many of the passengers were from Kenya, but others were said to be from Italy, France, the US, Canada, Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Germany, Slovakia and India.

A statement from Boeing said the manufacturer was "deeply saddened" to learn of the disaster, adding that it was sending a technical team to the crash site.

The last fatal Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane crash was in 2010 when all 90 on board were killed when the aircraft crashed minutes after take-off from Beirut.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, we can confirm at least seven British nationals were on-board flight ET302.

"Our staff at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa are in touch with the relevant authorities in Ethiopia. We extend our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and those affected by this tragic event."

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "aware of the incident and providing consular assistance".

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