Ethiopian Airlines Flight Crashes, Killing More Than 150 On Board

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed Sunday morning shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the airline said.

The plane had 149 passengers and eight crew members on board, the airline said. There were no survivors.

The cause of the crash remains unknown, and Ethiopian Airlines "said that there was nothing they had seen that would tell them that something was wrong with this plane," NPR's Eyder Peralta reports on All Things Considered. According to the airline, inspectors last conducted maintenance on the aircraft on Feb. 4.

The plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, had flown from Johannesburg to Addis Ababa earlier Sunday morning without incident.

A technical team from Boeing will be traveling to the crash site to help in the investigation, the company said in a statement, as will a team from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane was carrying passengers from more than 30 countries, the airline's CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, told reporters. The victims include 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven British citizens, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Dutch citizens, four Indians, four Slovakians, three Austrians, three Swedes, three Russians, two Moroccans, two Spaniards, two Poles and two Israelis.

At least one of the victims had a United Nations passport and was believed to be traveling with a group to a U.N. environment summit in Nairobi, Kenya, the airline said in a statement.

Ethiopian Airlines said its CEO "expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loves ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident."

The plane was on a regularly scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi when it took a nose dive near Bishoftu, a town about 37 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.

The aircraft model was the same as that of the Lion Air plane that crashed into the Java Sea last October. That jet similarly went down just minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia. Cockpit data indicated that the plane's airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its previous four flights.

The two incidents are similar, but it is not yet clear if Sunday's crash was caused by the same malfunction. The Ethiopian Airlines plane was "brand new" and had been delivered to the airline in November, GebreMariam said. It was being flown by a "senior pilot" who had worked for the airline since 2010.

According to the airline, the plane lost contact with the control tower six minutes after takeoff. Before losing contact, GebreMariam said, the pilot sent a distress call and was given approval to return to the tarmac. According to reports, visibility was clear.

The airline tweeted a photo of GebreMariam standing in a crater at the crash site, surrounded by debris and blue skies.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office expressed its "deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning."

"Ethiopian is Africa's biggest airline, and recently the airport in Addis Ababa overtook Dubai as the leading gateway to sub-Saharan Africa," Peralta reports.

"Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off," Reuters reports.

This story will be updated.

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