A UN consultant was among four Indians killed in a crash involving an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday.

Shikha Garg, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) consultant attached with the Environment Ministry, was on her way to attend a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting in Nairobi in the plane which crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.

The other three Indian nationals killed are Vaidya Pannagesh Bhaskar, Vaidya Hansin Annagesh and Nukavarapu Manisha.

“I am sorry to know about the unfortunate crash of Ethiopian Airlines plane ET 302. We have lost four Indian nationals in the air crash. I have asked Indian High Commissioner in Ethiopia to provide all help and assistance to the bereaved families,” Swaraj tweeted.

“My colleague Dr Harsh Vardhan (Environment Minister) has confirmed that Ms.Shikha Garg is a Consultant with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. She was travelling to attend the UNEP meeting in Nairobi,” the EAM added.

 

In a tweet the Environment Minister extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

“My condolences to the families of four Indian nationals who have died in an unfortunate crash of Ethiopian Airlines. Sadly, a UNDP consultant attached to my ministry @moefcc Ms Shikha Garg, also died in the crash. My prayers for the departed souls,” read Harsh Vardhan’s tweet.

 

A total of 149 passengers and 8 crew members from 35 countries were on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 when it ploughed into a field in Bishoftu (formerly Debre Zeit), a town located 48 kilometres south east of Addis Ababa.

Among the deceased were 32 Kenyan, 18 Canadian, 9 Ethiopian, 8 Americans and 7 each from French and UK.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft took off from the capital at 8.38 am local time (11.08 am IST). Contact with the aircraft was lost at 8.44 am local time, just six minutes after take-off, on its flight to Kenya’s Nairobi.

It was expected to land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 10:25 am local time.

A search and rescue operation was launched immediately.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, who reached the site of the accident on Sunday afternoon, confirmed that there were no survivors.

“The CEO expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” a statement posted by Ethiopian Airlines said.

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was the first to break the news of the crash, expressed condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones.

“The Office of the PM, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on a regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning,” the PM’s office said in a tweet.

 

The airlines also changed the profile picture of its official Twitter handle with the logo in white on a black background and an all-black background image to show solidarity with the families of the accident victims.

The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was the explosion of a Boeing 737-800 in Lebanon in 2010. The accident killed 83 passengers and seven crew members.

Ethiopian Airlines said that an investigation will be carried out by a committee comprising Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Ethiopian Transport Authority.

Boeing 737 MAX 8 under scanner

Unconfirmed reports say that the brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 was delivered to the airline just four months ago.

This was second time in less than six months that a brand-new Boeing aircraft crashed just minutes into a flight. The last crash was of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight, which went down over the Java Sea in late October killing all 189 people on board.

Ethiopian Airlines, on Monday, said that it has grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice.

On Monday, China, too, grounded all of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets. Eight Chinese nationals lost their lives in the crash.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement that all domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets would be out of action for some time, due to its principle of “zero tolerance for safety hazards”.

China will also contact Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration to confirm “flight safety” issues.

“Given in both air crashes, the aircrafts were newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8, and both accidents occur during the take-off, they share certain similarities,” the administration said in the statement.