A veil of sadness gripped The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Sunday morning with the wailing of the bereaved. Mourners dressed in black had streamed into the vast churchyard, waving pictures of loved ones who died in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 a week earlier.
Many families do not expect to ever recover remains because of the fiery nature of the crash which killed all 157 people — crew and passengers — aboard. Meanwhile, with DNA confirmation of all passenger and crew remains still far in the offing, members from two different families reportedly state that Ethiopian Airlines gave bereaved families charred earth from the crash site to bury in lieu of their loved ones’ remains. The members spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of "possible government reprisal". Still, the mourners did not have bodies to bury.
We were told by the company [Ethiopian Airlines] that we will be given a kilo (of earth) each for burial at Kidist Selassie Church or Holy Trinity Cathedral [where many of Ethiopia's past rulers are buried under its pink stone spires} for a funeral they will organize," said one family member who asked not to be named.
Families of some of the 157 victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were given a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) sack of scorched earth taken from the crash sites in lieu of their loved one's bodies.
Ethiopian airlines said DNA testing of the remains of the people on board Flight 302 may take up to six months Many of the bodies of those on board the ill-fated flight had disintegrated on impact and it could take up to six months to identify what little remains there are. Ethiopian Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges told reporters in Addis Ababa that:
Temporary death certificate had been given, and a final one would be issued in two weeks time. Collection of DNA samples from relatives had begun. Victim identification would be done to scientific international standards, and internationally-recognized organizations such as Interpol were going to be involved in the process."
Relatives of those on board have been asked to give DNA samples to the Ethiopian airlines to help identify the remains.
The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members,” one family member said. “We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones.”
On Saturday, about 100 relatives including the brother and father of Captain Yared Getachew, gathered at a memorial for the victims at the Kenyan embassy.
I’m still processing it,” said the captain’s brother, Meno Getachew Tessema, 39, a corporate lawyer from Toronto who had flown in a day earlier. The loss has been especially hard for his father, he said, because the older man had relied heavily on his younger son, who had been “his right arm.”
His dream was to be a pilot. He was diligent, hardworking, he had a consistent work ethic. I would like to emphasize his record and that he was a rising star at Ethiopian Airlines."
Meanwhile, in the Ethiopian capital, families and aviation staff at Bole International Airport gathered together with bouquets of white roses to remember the two pilots and six crew, who perished along with 149 passengers in the Ethiopia Airlines crash a week ago.
Weeping women held slender single stems in their shaking hands. Banks of the white flowers, the traditional colour of mourning, were placed in front of a row of empty coffins at the ceremony.
A female flight attendant spoke warmly of the deceased Captain Yared Getachew.
"He was a really nice person, a good person, all the words you can find to talk about a good person apply. He was a very kind human being," she said, before dissolving in tears.
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