'Boeing killed our loved ones': relatives seek answers one year on from Ethiopia Airlines crash

An interim report released on Monday by the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau mostly blamed Boeing for the 737 MAX accident which killed 157 people

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The families of passengers and crew aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 marked the first anniversary of the crash on Tuesday in the shadow of an interim report focused on software installed on the Boeing 737 MAX airliner.

The accident killed all 157 people aboard and was the second involving the new 737 MAX plane in only five months, leading to its worldwide grounding.

Hundreds of relatives and friends from across the world travelled to Ethiopia for the memorial from nations including Canada, the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Italy and France.

A ceremony at the crash site, about a three-hour drive from the capital Addis Ababa, included tree planting and the reading out of victims' names. A candlelight vigil was also organised by the Ethiopian Airline Pilots Association.

Monday's interim report from Ethiopia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau bolstered the findings of Ethiopia's initial assessment, which linked the crash to the plane's MCAS anti-stall software.

It identified no issues with the airline or the pilots' handling of the plane, which crashed shortly after take-off.

The 737 MAX, Boeing's best-selling plane, remains grounded. The company has lost billions of dollars after the Ethiopian crash and an October 2018 accident involving Indonesia's Lion Air that killed all 189 people aboard.

Max Thabiso Edkins, 35, an aspiring filmmaker, marine biologist and climate expert with the World Bank on his way to the United Nations Environment Conference in Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi when he died.

His father, noted South African filmmaker Don Edkins, came to Addis Ababa this week to film a documentary on his son's tragic end. Max was a father of one whose second child was due just months after the accident.

Mr Edkins was unsurprised anticipates the final report on the March 10, 2019 accident will give him more information and perhaps even closure.

"This is a preliminary report and does not yet have the analysis which will be in the final report", he told The National.

“But what it shows is that the procedure given by Boeing after the Lion Air crash did not work. The on board computer got information from only one sensor which gave an incorrect angle of attack”.

A grieving family member of Elsabet Minwuyelet, a hostess who also perished in the crash, highlighted the impact losing the young newlywed mother.

With nothing to bury, the family was given sacks of earth by Ethiopian Airlines, he said.

"The whole family has been affected. We have a young daughter being raised by a grandmother and one who will never get to know or see her own mother," he told The National.

"We are still devastated and it really does not seem real. Every milestone is a reminder of what we lost and what could have been”.

The flight control system defeated the pilots’ efforts to control the plane. When it triggered for the fourth and final time, the pilots fought back on their control columns, but the nose of the plane sank even more and the jet flew even faster.

Shortly before impact, the jet plummeted towards the ground at 925kph — at the rate of more than 1,500 metres per minute — with its nose tilted down at a 40-degree angle, according to the report.

A date for the release of the final report has not been set, but Mr Edkins has ideas of what it may contain.

“The pilots tried to rectify but did not have the information," he said, "so what this interim report tells me is that Boeing was to blame for an unsafe design that the pilots could do nothing about."

"Boeing killed our loved ones through their greed and turning a bling eye to the inadequacies in the design of the 737 Max."