Gara-Bokka (Ethiopia): The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed killing 157 people was making a strange rattling noise and trailed smoke and debris as it swerved above a field of alarmed cows before hitting ground, said witnesses.
The flight took off from the Ethiopian capital on Sunday morning bound for Nairobi with passengers from over 30 countries. All on board the Boeing 737 MAX 8 died.
The pilot had requested permission to return, saying he was having problems – but it was too late.
Half a dozen witnesses reported smoke billowing out behind, while four of them also described a loud sound.
Turn Buzuna, a 26-year-old housewife and farmer who lives about 300 meters from the crash site, said it was a loud rattling sound like straining and shaking metal.
“Everyone says they have never heard that kind of sound from a plane and they are under a flight path,” she added.
Malka Galato, 47, a barley and wheat farmer whose field the plane crashed in, also described smoke and sparks from the back. “The plane was very close to the ground and it made a turn… Cows that were grazing in the fields ran in panic,” he said.
‘Plane tried to climb but it failed and went down nose first’
Tamirat Abera, 25, was walking past the field at the time. He said the plane turned sharply, trailing white smoke and items like clothes and papers, then crashed about 300 meters away.
“It tried to climb but it failed and went down nose first,” he said. “There was fire and white smoke which then turned black.”
As the plane had only just taken off, it was loaded with fuel.
At the site, Red Cross workers in masks sifted gently through victims’ belongings. Children’s books – Dr Seuss’s “Oh The Thinks You Can Think” and “Anne of Green Gables” – lay near a French-English dictionary burnt along one edge.
A woman’s brown handbag, the bottom burnt, lay open next to an empty bottle of perfume.
The aircraft was broken into small pieces, the largest among them a wheel and a dented engine. The debris was spread over land roughly the size of two football fields.