SEVEN Brits were on the tragic Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Nairobi which crashed this morning just six minutes after takeoff, and killed everyone onboard.
The flight came down – just after departing Addis Ababa – carrying 149 passengers from 35 countries and eight crew members.
The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, this afternoon confirmed the dead also include eight Americans and Italians, 32 Kenyans, nine Ethiopians, eight Chinese, seven French, 18 Canadians, six Egyptians, five from the Netherlands, and four from India and Slovakia.
Earlier the Foreign Office had been unable to confirm to the Sun Online if any British nationals were onboard, but said it was working with teams on the ground in Ethiopia.
Mr Gerbremariam said the pilot, who had an “excellent flying record”, had reported difficulties and asked to turn back, adding the plane had “no known technical problems”.
It is not yet clear why the crash happened but something went wrong not long after takeoff – with Flight Radar suggesting on Twitter it had unstable vertical speed.
A chilling radar map shows the flight not far from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, before the tracking suddenly stops.
Ethiopian Airlines released a picture of its CEO at the site of the crash on Facebook – where a large area of disrupted earth is covered with debris from the crash.
The jet, which came down around Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, about 31 miles south of the capital city, is thought to have been delivered to the airline about four months ago.
The Prime Minister’s office tweeted this morning: “The Office of the PM, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express it’s deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”
Worried people had gathered at the airport in Nairobi waiting for news of their loved ones, before it was confirmed there were no survivors.
Wendy Otieno, who was clutching her phone and weeping, said: “We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone.”
Waiting for her brother, Agnes Muilu said: “I came to the airport to receive my brother but I have been told there is a problem.
“I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”
And Robert Mudanta, 46, waiting for his brother-in-law coming from Canada, said: “No, we haven’t seen anyone from the airline or the airport.
“Nobody has told us anything, we are just standing here hoping for the best.”
A witness, Bekele Gutema, told the BBC: “The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it. Everything is burnt down.”
The Kenyan Transport Secretary James Macharia said in a press conference the Kenyan authorities had set up centres to comfort people turning up to the airport expecting to meet friends or relatives.
“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said, as many Kenyans braced for the worst.
Ethiopian Airlines issued a statement this morning confirming the crash – saying the flight took off at 8.38am before contact was lost at 8.44am.
It added: “At this time search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties.
“Ethiopian Airlines staff will be sent to the accident scene and will do everything possible to assist the emergency services,
“It is believed there were 149 passengers and 8 crew onboard the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight.”
This is the second major crash involving a Boeing 737 Max jet in less than five months – with a Lion Air crash in the sea off Jakarta leaving no survivors in October.
A Boeing statement said: “Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team.
“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off.
The crash comes as the country’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centered economy.
Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia, with a 2007 census listing more than 2,700,000 people living there.
The airline charters regular flights from the city to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where this plane was travelling to before it crashed.