US joins Ethiopian-led investigation at Boeing crash site

US joins Ethiopian-led investigation at Boeing crash site

Delegation to help examine what caused plane to crash near Addis Ababa, killing all 157 aboard, including 2 Israelis

Rescuers at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2019. (AP /Mulugeta Ayene)
Rescuers at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2019. (AP /Mulugeta Ayene)

US aviation experts on Tuesday joined the investigation into the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner on Sunday that killed 157 people, including two Israelis, as questions grow about the new Boeing plane involved in the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the crash site outside the capital, Addis Ababa, with representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board. They join an Ethiopian-led investigation.

The FAA said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 in October, and update training requirements and related flight crew manuals.

Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed in clear weather six minutes after taking off for Nairobi, and a growing number of countries and airlines have grounded the new Boeing model as a result.

File photo taken on November 28, 2017, of an Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737-700 aircraft (ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

One witness told The Associated Press that smoke was coming from the plane’s rear before it crashed in a rural field. “The plane rotated two times in the air, and it had some smoke coming from the back, then it hit the ground and exploded,” Tamrat Abera said.

Israel’s Ambassador to South Sudan Hanan Godar said he was a passenger last week on board the same jetliner that crashed, and the plane had experienced engine trouble.

One of the two Israelis killed in the crash was identified Monday evening as Avraham Matsliah, a father of two from the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. He was a high-tech employee who often traveled to Africa for business.

Matsliah, 49, left behind a wife and twin daughters, who are both currently serving in the Israeli military. The second Israeli who was killed is yet to be publicly identified.

Authorities are still working to sort through the wreckage and identify victims. The Israeli emergency response group ZAKA sent a delegation late Sunday night  “to locate and identify the Israeli victims, to collect their remains in keeping with Jewish law, and ensure a full Jewish burial,” the group said.

Avraham Matsliah, 49, from Ma’ale Adumim, was killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight near Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019. (Facebook)

Investigators on Monday found the jetliner’s two flight recorders at the crash site.

An airline official, however, said one recorder was partially damaged and “we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.

Safety experts have cautioned against drawing too many comparisons too soon with a Lion Air crash of the same model last year that killed 189 people.

Ethiopian Airlines decided to ground its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution,” spokesman Asrat Begashaw said. The carrier had been using five of the planes and awaiting delivery of 25 more.

But Boeing said it did not intend to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to its customers. It was sending a technical team to the crash site to help investigators and issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the jetliner.

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