NEWS
10/03/2019 18:59 GMT | Updated 10/03/2019 21:25 GMT

Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash: British UN Worker Joanna Toole Among 157 Killed

36-year-old from Devon was described as “a wonderful human being".

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.

Joanna’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.”

Joseph Waithaka, a 55-year-old who lived in Hull for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya, also died in the crash, his son told the Hull Daily Mail.

Ben Kuria, who lives in London, said his father had worked for the Probation Service, adding: “He helped so many people in Hull who had found themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Tributes have also been paid to an Irishman killed in the plane crash.

UN aid worker and engineer Michael (Mick) Ryan was formerly from Lahinch in Co Clare in Ireland’s west. He was believed to be married with two children, a priest in the county said.

He was employed by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which is a leading humanitarian organisation delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with impoverished communities to improve nutrition.

A WFP spokesman confirmed: “I can very, very sadly confirm that Michael Ryan worked for WFP and was based at our headquarters in Rome and was among those killed on ET 302.

“All of WFP’s thoughts and condolences are with the families of those killed.”

Several WFP staff were on the flight, ahead of this week’s conference.

On Twitter, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Ryan.

“Our thoughts tonight are with families of all those lost in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including Irish engineer Michael Ryan,” he tweeted.

“Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues & friends.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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.

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”.