Relatives bid farewell to Ethiopian plane crash victims

Relatives have wept over empty caskets at a mass funeral for the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims. Net photo.

ADDIS ABABA – Relatives of victims who perished in an Ethiopian Airlines crash gathered in the Ethiopian capital on Sunday to mourn their loved ones, one week after a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 Max 8 went down just minutes after take-off.

Flight ET 302 crashed near Bishoftu town, about 45 km from Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport, killing all 157 people aboard.

The memorial service included two parts, first at the headquarters of the Ethiopian Airlines Group and the second at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Senior Ethiopian government officials and relatives of the perished crew members were also in attendence.

Thousands of others also gathered at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where relatives attended funeral services in accordance with Ethiopian Orthodox church traditions.

The memorial event came amid difficulties to provide victims' bodies to their loved ones due to the devastating nature of the crash.

"We only have very small fragmented human tissues, human remains. That is the most difficult part of this tragic accident," Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Grieving family members were given bags of soil taken from the crash site.

The Ethiopian Federal Police is now taking full control of the human remains recovered from the crash site and Blake Emergency Services, a British-based organization, has been assigned to help with the DNA identification process, Gebremariam said.

"It's going to take a very long period of time," he said.

Both data and voice recorders from the crashed aircraft have been sent to France for further investigation into what caused the tragedy.