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Carleton University professor Pius Adesanmi and Amina Ibrahim Odowaa, of Edmonton, and her six-year-old daughter Safiya, were among the eighteen Canadians killed in Ethiopia Sunday when an airline flight crashed shortly after taking off in Addis Ababa.
All 149 passengers and eight crew on board flight ET302 were killed six minutes after takeoff; the cause of the accident is not yet known, and Ethiopian Airlines has said it will investigate the cause, along with the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Transportation Authority.
Adesanmi was an author and columnist as well as director of the Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies. On Sunday, as news of Adesanmi’s death spread, faculty colleagues in the English Department offered an outpouring of grief.
“Pius was a much loved colleague, one of those rare individuals who was larger than life in everything he did: his passion African studies, his unflinching commitment to political engagement in Nigerian public life, his booming laugh and warm collegiality, and his ability to mix an on-the-ground awareness of African culture with sophisticated theoretical instincts,” professor Paul Keen wrote.. “His sudden absence from Carleton is unimaginable.”
Another faculty colleague, professor Travis DeCook, said he was shaken by the news.
“Pius was wonderful — a warm-hearted man who was full of contagious good cheer,” DeCook said in an email. “He was a dynamic model of scholarly engagement.”
The day before the crash, Adesanmi posted a picture of himself on Facebook, with his passport in hand, with a caption reading, “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me – Psalm 139:9-10”.
Separately, Mohamed Hassan Ali of Toronto confirmed his sister, Amina Ibrahim Odowaa and her daughter, Safiya, died in the crash.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked and saddened by the news of the accident.
“We are providing consular assistance, and working closely with authorities to gather further information,” Trudeau said. “We join the international community in mourning the loss of so many lives, including those countries who have also lost citizens in this devastating crash.”
Pastor Efrem Leakemariam with Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Toronto said that there were tears at the church’s Sunday morning worship.
He said people are still trying to figure out what happened and who died in the crash, but with a tight-knit community, it seems inevitable that there will be connections.
“Everybody knows each other, so definitely, I expect some people that I know, or a brother or a sister or a friend of some people that I know here in Toronto will be among the victims,” Leakemariam said.
“We don’t know the details, but over the days, we’ll see.”
It was uncertain what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to go down in clear weather six minutes after departing Bole Airport in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on its way to Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya. The accident was strikingly similar to last year’s crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people. Both crashes involved the Boeing 737 Max 8, and both happened minutes after the jets became airborne.
The Ethiopian pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return to the airport in Addis Ababa, the airline’s CEO said.
At least 35 nationalities were among the dead, including 32 Kenyans, and people from China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel, India and Somalia.
Families around the world grieved. At the Addis Ababa airport, a woman called a mobile number in vain. “Where are you, my son?” she said, in tears. Others cried as they approached the terminal.
At the crash site, the impact caused the plane to shatter into small pieces. Personal belongings and aircraft parts were strewn across the freshly churned earth. Bulldozers dug into the crater to pull out buried pieces of the jet.
Red Cross teams and others searched for human remains. In one photo, teams could be seen loading black plastic bags into trucks.
As sunset approached, crews were still searching for the plane’s flight-data recorder, the airline’s chief operating officer said.
Other worried families gathered in Nairobi. Agnes Muilu came to pick up his brother: “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”
Relatives were frustrated by the lack of word on loved ones.
“Why are they taking us round and round. It is all over the news that the plane crashed,” said Edwin Ong’undi, who was waiting for his sister. “All we are asking for is information to know about their fate.”
Ethiopian Airlines said it has contacted the families of the victims and will soon conduct forensic investigations to identify the 149 passengers and eight crew.
Some of those aboard were thought to be travelling to a major United Nations environmental meeting scheduled to start Monday in Nairobi. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said staff members were among the victims, as were colleagues from the United Nations. A UN official said the United Nations expects that about a dozen passengers affiliated with the world organization were on the Ethiopian Airlines jet.