Wreckage lies at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Sunday, March 10, 2019. The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 on board, authorities said, as grieving families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (AP Photo)

Wreckage lies at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Sunday, March 10, 2019. The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 on board, authorities said, as grieving families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. (AP Photo)

Canadian Ethiopia embassy staff practised for disaster weeks before crash

Flight 302 plowed into the desert outside the capital city of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board

Canadian Embassy staff in Ethiopia’s capital city took part in emergency-response training just weeks ago, two visiting senators said Tuesday as they described watching consular officials spring into action in the aftermath of this weekend’s deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The timing of the training proved prescient Sunday after Nairobi-bound Flight 302 plowed into the desert outside the capital city of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board, including 18 Canadians.

The senators — Conservative Raynell Andreychuk and Liberal Jim Munson — are on a trip through Africa as part of a cross-party group of parliamentarians that arrived in Addis Ababa less than two hours before the crash. Some of the passengers on their flight were ultimately bound for Nairobi — a popular flight the parliamentary association also took last year.

The two veteran politicians described an embassy that found itself grieving a loss that has reverberated around the country even as they worked around the clock to find out more about the Canadians who were on board the ill-fated flight.

“The strain on the mission, I know what it’s like,” said Andreychuk, a former ambassador. “I had car accidents, I didn’t have a plane crash, but your immediate response is to service the Canadians involved and that means those who perish, but also the families.”

The parliamentary association touched down in the capital about 90 minutes before the crash, Munson said in a telephone interview.

“There were people on the plane that I talked to that were going to Nairobi,” he said.

“You can’t help but stop and think and reflect upon the excitement and the anticipation of those who were coming either to a conference or to go on a safari in Kenya and not make it. It’s heartbreaking.”

Andreychuk said embassy staff first had to figure out who was on the plane. That meant working with airport authorities, the airline and the Ethiopian government to get information and pass it around the embassy and back to headquarters in Ottawa, which Andreychuk said is sending additional staff to help.

Munson said staff were also going to the crash site and taking calls from families, including some who may want to get to Addis Ababa quickly.

On Monday morning, the parliamentary group was scheduled to have a briefing at the embassy. Instead there was a small ceremony and moment of silence outside the embassy building, where everyone expressed their grief.

Since the crash, a sombre mood has settled over the trip. All of the association’s meetings with Ethiopian counterparts and civil society groups have begun with moments of silence, and Canada’s embassy has prepared a condolence book that visitors will be able to sign throughout the week.

Andreychuk, who represents Saskatchewan in the upper chamber on Parliament Hill, likened the impact in Ethiopia and on the Canadian delegation there to the bus crash almost one year ago involving the Humboldt Broncos that killed 16 people, including 10 players, and injured 13 more.

“It’s like a family loss. You can read it in newspapers, you can see it on television, you can get a tweet, but to have been on ground, we’re living it in a way that is unimaginable,” she said.

“It’s like Humboldt is on my doorstep and so we still live it today. I think this one will be the same.”

READ MORE: Garneau to update Canada’s position on Boeing 737 Max 8 as pressure mounts

READ MORE: Much of world bans Boeing jet involved in Ethiopia crash

The Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed six minutes after takeoff Sunday morning, triggering worldwide apprehension about the aircraft, which was also involved in a deadly crash in Indonesia less than five months ago, when Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea 12 minutes after departing the airport in Jakarta. The October 2018 crash killed all 189 passengers and crew on board.

Since Sunday, a growing number of countries have grounded the plane, including China, Germany and the United Kingdom. The U.S. and Canada have not followed suit, citing a lack of information about what caused the latest incident.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with his Kenyan counterpart about the disaster, which also claimed the life of 32 Kenyans. Trudeau and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta traded condolences to friends and families of the victims, and the prime minister offered additional Canadian support for the ongoing investigation, officials said.

The brief readout of the call from Trudeau’s office said the two agreed to share information on the investigation going forward.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Voting day for the upcoming Central Okanagan Board of Education by-election is June 26. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

Kelowna voters will go the polls to fill vacant Kelowna trustee seat

Two bikes that were stolen after a West Kelowna parking garage was looted on April 3. Photo: Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan
Parking garage looted in West Kelowna

A car was broken into and six storage lockers were ransacked

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read