Ethiopian Airlines crash: First Brit victim revealed as “loving” young woman

WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES Joanna Toole, from Exmouth, Devon, was among 157 people killed when the Boeing 737 800 Max crashed just six minutes after take off this morning

The first Brit victim of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 this morning has been revealed as a “loving” young woman.

Joanna Toole, 36, from Exmouth, Devon, is presumed dead after the plane crashed in Ethiopia just six minutes after take off.

Her dad, Adrian Toole, has now paid a heartbreaking tribute to her, describing her caring nature and her love for animals.

He told Devon Live: “Joanna was a very soft and loving person.

“I remember when she was at Exmouth Community College she had a meeting with a careers advisor and told him that she wanted to work with animals.

“The advisor advised her against it but Joanna was undaunted, I can still remember how she worked, as a child, to protect a badger sett

She was only about eight years old at the time.

Later when she lived in Iona Avenue she used to keep homing pigeons and rats. Later on she travelled to the Faroe Islands trying to stop whaling.”

He added of the crash: “We’ve been told there are no survivors, so we’re guessing this is the end.”

Flight ET302, which was en-route to Nairobi, came down just minutes after it took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city.

It had departed at 8.38am local time. A total of 149 passengers, along with eight crew members, were onboard the doomed aircraft.

These included seven Brits and one Irish passenger, officials said.

Joanna’s family told Devon Live they were earlier given the devastating news that she was among the passengers

She had been travelling alone for her work with the United Nations.

Dad Adrian, chairman of Transition Exmouth, said Joanna’s partner phoned him this morning and confirmed she was on the plane.

Describing his daughter as a passionate environmentalist, he said: “Joanna’s work was not a job – it was her vocation.

“She had never really wanted to do anything else but work in animal welfare since she was a child.

“Somehow that work took her into the international sphere and for the last 15 years she has been working for international animal welfare organisations.

“That involves a lot of travelling around the world – although personally I never wanted her to be on a single one of those planes.

“I’m on environmental campaigner myself – so partly it was because of the damage to the environment but also because it’s a dangerous occupation to be flying. Up until now she had been lucky.”

Joanna, one of three sisters, had studied at Exmouth Community College and Bicton College before going to university.

She worked for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and lived in Rome, Italy, with her partner.

She was on her way to Kenya for a workshop with local fishermen on the marking of fishing nets as a way of reducing marine debris when the plane went down this morning.

Her project had been recently taken on by the UN.

On her blog, Joanna wrote that she was “working towards a future where marine animals are free from the risk of being entangled in ghost gear and where industry and governments are committed to maintaining ghost gear-free seas.”

Officials have said there were no survivors in today’s crash.

Kenya’s transport secretary James Macharia earlier told reporters that he could confirm there were nationals from at least 35 different countries on the plane, including seven from the UK.

The Irish foreign ministry was said to be supporting a family, while the British ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr Alastair McPhail, said his team were working hard in response to the “tragic crash”.

“Everybody was very proud of [Joanna] and the work she did, we’re still in a state of shock,” Adrian told Devon Live.

“Joanna was genuinely one of those people who you never heard a bad word about.

“She was one of those people who burned the candle at both ends. She did diving.

“She was studying Spanish to further her career with the UN.

She was doing a Masters degree in sustainable development because she was coming around to linking her work with animal welfare with the sustainable agenda.”

He added: “I have just come off the phone with her boss, the assistant director general at the UN who has told me that her work will not finish – they will carry on with it.

“She never had any doubt that she wanted to work in animal welfare and on the international scene, that meant a lot of travel.

“It’s hard to imagine life without her.”

Joanna’s family said they were waiting to hear whether her body can be recovered and returned to Britain.

The plane had been expected to arrive in Kenya’s capital after a less than two-hour journey. But minutes after take off, tragedy struck.

The aircraft was a Boeing 737 800 Max – the same model as the Lion Air plane that crashed in Indonesia last October, killing 189.

Speaking of the latest incident, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the plane’s captain told controllers at Bole airport he was having difficulty and wanted to return.

He also said that he had been given clearance.

According to the airline, the flight crashed near the town of Bishoftu, roughly 40 miles south-east of Addis Ababa.

The plane “had unstable vertical speed” shortly after take off, according to flight tracking organisation flightradar24.

“Data from Flightradar24 ADS-B network show that vertical speed was unstable after take off,” the Swedish-based organisation said on its Twitter feed.

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.”

The Ethiopian Prime Minister’s official Twitter account expressed its condolences to the families of those killed in the crash.

The PM’s office posted: “The office of the PM, on behalf of government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express it’s deepest condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”

Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko said his wife and two children were among those onboard the plane, while hospitality company Tamarind Group said its chief executive Jonathan Seex had also died.

Aid workers, doctors and a prominent football official are also believed to be among the dead.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the disaster, and that it was sending a technical team to the crash site.

The last deadly Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane crash was in 2010, when the aircraft went down minutes after take-off from Beirut. In that tragedy, all 90 onboard were killed.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said this afternoon: “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.”

Ethiopian Airlines crash victims: What we know so far

Here is what we know so far about the victims:

– Joanna Toole, 36, from Exmouth, Devon, was on the plane, according to her family. She worked for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and lived in Rome with her partner.

– Anton Hrnko, an MP for the nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” to announce that his wife Blanka, daughter Michala and son Martin were among the dead.

– Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced “with immense shock and grief” that its chief executive Jonathan Seex was among the fatalities.

Paolo Dieci, a founder of an aid group that works with Unicef in Africa, was also reported as among the dead. The International Committee for the Development of Peoples group said: “The world of international cooperation has lost one of its most brilliant advocates and Italian civil society has lost a precious point of reference.”

– The mayor of the northern Italian city of Bergamo said three members of humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila were on board. Giorgio Gori said on Facebook that the aid group’s president Carlo Spini, his wife, and treasurer Matteo Ravasio were among the eight Italians killed.

– Sicilian regional culture ministry assessor Sebastiano Tusa was also reportedly on the plane.

– The African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe said co-chairman Karim Saafi had been a passenger on the flight and had been due to represent them at a meeting with the African Union in Nairobi. “Karim’s smile, his charming and generous personality, eternal positivity, and his noble contribution to youth employment, diaspora engagement and Africa’s socio-economic development will never be forgotten,” a statement said.

Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation, was named as being among the dead by Sofapaka Football Club. He was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

– Austrian media reported that three doctors who were aged between 30 and 40 and worked at hospitals in Linz had died.

– Save the Children said its child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie was among the dead. He “worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable children are safe during humanitarian crises”, the charity said.

– Three of the Russians on board were tourists Yekaterina Polyakova, Alexander Polyakov and Sergei Vyalikov, the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia said. The first two were reportedly married.