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Relief as remains of Ethiopian Airlines crash victims arrive in Nairobi

Monday October 14 2019

The remains of victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

The remains of victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi on October 14, 2019. PHOTO | JAMES KAHONGEH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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After months of waiting, bereaved families on Monday received the remains of their loved ones who perished in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in March.

Specialised caskets bearing the remains of 28 victims arrived aboard an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft that touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport moments before 10am.

From the aircraft, the caskets were ferried to the pavilion in special-purpose tractors, each making several trips.

Families were waiting at the VIP terminal where an interdenominational funeral service was held while teams from Kenya Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance offered psychosocial support.

The reception was an exclusive affair with only close family members admitted into the pavilion.

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Seven months after the accident involving flight ET 302 in the Bishoftu region of Ethiopia that claimed the lives of all 157 people on board, families have not been able to inter the remains of their loved ones.

A family member, who spoke to the Nation, said the caskets bore “nothing much” as the bodies had been severely damaged with most body parts missing. The caskets, he noted, were mostly symbolic.

Without DNA tests, it would have been ‘‘virtually impossible’’ to identify the victims, the Nation was told.

But even with the DNA tests, it took forensics experts more than 240 days to match the samples owing to the extent of the damage and the high number of victims involved.

“The families can now have closure from these seven months of sorrow from the tragedy,” said Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.

“Some of the Kenyans involved in the accident had dual nationalities and were interred elsewhere,” Dr Juma said in response to the question on why only 28 instead of 32 caskets came into the country.

NO PAYOUTS

Dr Juma was accompanied by her Transport counterpart James Macharia and Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem.

It has emerged however that the government will not be offering support of any kind to the affected families. Families are expected to foot transport, preservation and burial or cremation expenses themselves.

By Monday afternoon, families had started moving the remains to various mortuaries across the country.

“The role of the government was only logistical in nature. All the passengers had been insured, and now it’s up to the insurance companies involved to assist with the other arrangements,” Mr Richmond Mureithi, who has been coordinating the families of the crash victims, said.