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On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, a Boeing 737 Max plane, disappeared from the radar six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa airport and crashed into a field, killing all 157 people on board. The impact was so great that both engines were buried in a crater 10m deep. A week after the crash, empty coffins were buried at a ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, as victims were unable to be identified. Officials gave relatives bags of earth from the crash site. On Nov 14, eight months after the crash, the site of the impact was covered and the unidentified remains of victims buried in rows of identical coffins.

Comparisons were made with the crash of a Lion Air aircraft, also a 737 Max, 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta in October 2018. Countries across the world, initially with the exception of the United States, grounded the 737 Max. First reports showed that pilots had been unable to prevent the plane from repeatedly nosediving, despite following procedures recommended by Boeing. It appeared that in both cases, pilots were struggling to deal with an automated safety system designed to prevent stalling, which was repeatedly pushing the nose of the plane down. It seemed that the system was being activated, possibly due to a faulty sensor, even though nothing was wrong.

It later emerged that American Airlines pilots had confronted Boeing about potential safety issues with the Max aircraft. Boeing had resisted their calls but promised a software fix, which had not been done by the time Flight ET302 crashed. Planes remained grounded in 2020.


Relatives grieving at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 13, 2019. PHOTO: © MULUGETA AYENE, ETHIOPIA, ASSOCIATED PRESS


Relatives of an Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crash victim mourning at a ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 17, 2019, a week after the incident. PHOTO: © MULUGETA AYENE, ETHIOPIA, ASSOCIATED PRESS


A relative of a victim of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 plane crash throwing dirt in her face as she grieves at the crash site, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 14, 2019. PHOTO: © MULUGETA AYENE, ETHIOPIA, ASSOCIATED PRESS


Onlookers inspecting debris at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 11, 2019. PHOTO: © MULUGETA AYENE, ETHIOPIA, ASSOCIATED PRESS