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Ethiopian Airlines plane crash: ‘Pilot reported difficulties, asked to return’

The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed on Sunday, had alerted controllers ‘he had difficulties’ and wanted to turn back the plane, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

Rescue team members carry bodies in bags at the crash site of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX near Bishoftu, some 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 10 March 2019. Picture: AFP

ADDIS ABABA - The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis, chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.

At the same time, people with passports from 32 countries and the United Nations were on the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed, Ethiopian Airlines said.

Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia with nine, then Italy, China, and the United States with eight each, CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told reporters in Addis Ababa.

Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, and India four. Four were UN passport-holders.