Grieving families given earth from Ethiopian crash site
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Grieving family members of victims of the Ethiopian air disaster are being given sacks of earth to bury in place of the remains of their loved ones.
Officials have begun delivering bags of earth to family members of the 157 victims of the crash instead of the remains of their loved ones because the identification process is going to take such a long time.
Families are being given a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) sack of scorched earth taken from the crash sites, members of two different families told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid any possible government reprisal. An Ethiopian government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters also confirmed the deliveries of soil.
“The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members,” one family member said. “We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones.”
Forensic DNA work has begun on identifying the remains but it may take six months to identify the victims, because the body parts are in small pieces. However, authorities say they will issue death certificates within two weeks. The victims of the crash came from 35 countries.
A mass memorial service for the dead is planned in Addis Ababa to take place Sunday, one week after the crash. Muslim families have already held prayers for the dead and are anxious to have something to bury as soon as possible.
Interpol and Blake Emergency Services, hired by Ethiopian Airlines, will work with Ethiopian police and health officials to identify the bodies, Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport said on Saturday.
“Preparation for the identification process has already started and we will make sure that the post mortem investigation will start as soon as possible,” she said.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has sent about 16 members to assist the investigation, she said.
In Paris, investigators started studying the cockpit voice recorder of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet Saturday, grieving family members were given sacks of dirt to bury in place of the remains of their loved ones.
The French air accident investigation agency BEA tweeted Saturday that technical work on the recorder began. The BEA also said work resumed on the flight’s data recorders.
The recorders, also known as black boxes, were sent to France because the BEA has extensive expertise in analyzing such devices. Experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the plane’s manufacturer Boeing are among those involved in the investigation.