Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Crash pilot’s friend: ‘We played football – it won’t be the same again’

Captain Yeshewas Fentahun, president of the Airline Pilots’ Association of Ethiopia, has told Sky News he could not believe that Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 had crashed.

“When you fly you never think your plane will crash, that is for sure, so it is natural for people to assume that your flight is going to be safe,” he said.

He also told Sky News he knew and liked Yared Getecho, the 28-year-old captain of the ill-fated flight.

“Ethiopian Airlines is not that big of an airline,” he said.

“We all knew each other. We played football with each other. It won’t be the same again.”

He added: “I wonder how he would have felt in the last few minutes?”

Sky News also interviewed a Red Cross coordinator, Yilma Bekelle, who has been supervising a team charged with clearing the accident site of human remains – a grim but necessary task.

“Just now we found one human leg but we don’t know if it is a man or a woman,” he said.

“We have found photographs and money – dollars, Egyptian pounds.

“It’s heartbreaking. We have (also) found the shoes of babies and small children. There must have been many young people on board.”

I asked how he is able to do such a difficult and disturbing job.

“Since the day we arrived we’ve been crying inside,” he said. “But we are trying to help the families. We were expecting (to find) survivors but we were not lucky enough.”

A forensic team from Ethiopia’s federal police is now trying to identify the human remains found at the site.

The Ethiopian government has promised to return the bodies to the victims’ loved ones.

Sky News watched as US aviation experts arrived at the crash site, some 120km south of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), together with representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board, will participate in an Ethiopian-led investigation.

In a statement, the FAA said it expected Boeing to roll out improvements to a computerised flight management “anti-stall system” in the next few weeks.

The software is suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 off the coast of Indonesia last October.

Boeing said the software enhancements were “designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer”.

A team of forensics specialists from an Israeli organisation called the Zaka Group began work at the accident site on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Shimon Biton said they were specifically trained to identify Israeli citizens. At least two people from that country are thought to have lost their lives.

He said: “We have so much experience with disasters and we are helping all around the world… (we) have a very big experience and because (we) know some added value of the Jewish point of view, religious point of view, we can find and say, ‘Okay, this is the person and this is not (a Jewish person).'”

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