TEL AVIV – A delegation from Israeli emergency response team ZAKA flew to the site of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash “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.
The team of volunteers dispatched to Addis Ababa were an “official delegation from the State of Israel, with the personal approval of the prime minister,” ZAKA said.
All 157 people on board, including two Israeli passengers, were killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, which took place shortly after takeoff Sunday morning from Addis Ababa.
At least 35 nationalities were represented among the flight’s 149 passengers and 8 crew members.
It was not immediately clear what caused the the crash of the Boeing 737-8 MAX plane, which was only months old, but the pilot reported difficulties and asked to return to the Ethiopian capital, the airline said.
Two flight data recorders from the plane were found Monday. The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) will be used to try to piece together the last moments before the plane went down, Ethiopian Airlines said.
Airlines around the world grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8s, as Sunday’s crash was similar to that of another Boeing 737 Max 8 belonging to Lion Air, which killed 189 people in October.
The plane was en route to Nairobi and is a popular route for Israelis looking to travel to Kenya since there are no direct flights to and from Israel. According to Israel’s Channel 13, the plane had been in Israel last Wednesday. The Boeing 737-8 MAX was also used by Lot Airlines between Ben Gurion Airport and Poland as well as Smart Wings for the Tel Aviv-Prague route.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in a video that Israel had opened a situation room in response to the tragedy.
“I have come here to the Foreign Ministry to closely monitor the reports from Ethiopia. To my sorrow, our ambassador has informed us that two Israelis perished in the plane crash. Our hearts are with the families,” Netanyahu said.
The pilot, named as Senior Captain Yared Getachew, had a “commendable performance” record with more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.