IN PHOTOS: Ethiopian Airlines crash triggers an outpouring of grief where it happened

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IN PHOTOS: Ethiopian Airlines crash triggers an outpouring of grief where it happened

In Ethiopia, an ancient land of pilgrimage, people are making a grim, new journey of grief.

One by one, friends and families of the 157 people killed on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 came to the crash site Wednesday with quiet offerings to the dead.

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Photographs. Heartfelt notes. Bouquets.

They were placed under a makeshift, bright green floral arch, in striking contrast to the arid land. White roses were plucked from a bucket and placed in a slender frame that wavered in the wind.

Ethiopia Plane Crash

Flowers are left at the at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Ethiopia Plane Crash

A family member puts a photo on flowers at the at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

APTOPIX Ethiopia Plane Crash

Wreaths and floral installations are seen near piles of wreckage at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Some of the relatives staggered with sorrow.

One man was supported by others as he cried out. They sought footing on the freshly churned and blackened landscape.

A grieving man who lost his wife is helped by a member of security forces and others at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Others stood in silence: the security forces in camouflage blue, the searchers in face masks, the diplomats in polished shoes.

“We owe it to the families to understand what happened,” said British Ambassador Alastair McPhail, who represented nine of his countrymen among the victims.

Relatives react at the at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

The dead came from 35 countries. Around the world, relatives numb with grief began a bewildering journey to the site outside Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Farmers, some with their cattle, witnessed the plane going down. When they hurried to the smoking ground, they found little there.

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A pilot, Solomon Gizaw, was among the first to see the crash site from above. He said it appeared as though the plane had slipped right into the earth.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the same, noting that the aircraft was “totally sunken under the ground.”

Yellow tape rings the scene. Onlookers watch at the edge, while close relatives have the heartbreaking right to go inside. Some carry armfuls of flowers.

“We want to go there often and make offerings,” said Dawit Gebremichael, who lost his sister.

Ethiopia Plane Crash

Family members cry at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

APTOPIX Ethiopia Plane Crash

A grieving relative is held back by others at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Ethiopia Plane Crash

A family member of one of the victims of the plane crash tries to escape from the security area to see the blocked investigation site at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

APTOPIX Ethiopia Plane Crash

A family member reacts at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Ethiopia Plane Crash

A family member reacts at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene

Ethiopia Plane Crash

Family members and friends hug at the at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 13, 2019.

AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene


A few have visited the site with little fanfare. As the world first learned about the crash on Sunday, Ethiopia’s young new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed went to bear witness and grieve.

Ethiopia is lined with footpaths to ancient churches and other places of reflection. Now it is Africa’s aviation hub, with jet contrails streaking across the sky.

The public pilgrimage to the crash site began with Tewolde. He stood alone in the gaping crater, holding a piece of wreckage, in an image that swiftly made its way around the world.

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Investigators have now arrived in a multinational inquiry into the crash.

New arrivals Wednesday included Indonesia’s recently appointed ambassador, who told reporters he had arrived in the country only a day earlier. He mourned one of his countrymen.

Chinese aviation experts at the site paused and made a modest offering to the victims: incense, fruit and pieces of Ethiopian bread known as injera.

They bowed in unison and resumed their work.

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