Mourners grieve next to empty caskets at a mass funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday. Mulugeta Ayene/AP
Mourners grieve next to empty caskets at a mass funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.
Relatives of the victims of last week’s Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people on board gathered beside empty coffins at a mass funeral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.
Family, friends and other mourners, some holding up photographs of loved ones who died in the crash, joined a funeral procession in the streets of the nation’s capital, as the caskets were carried to the city’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Priests swung incense over the caskets, which were draped in flags and adorned with pictures of the deceased.
Relatives told news wires prior to the funeral that they were given small sacks of scorched earth from the site of the crash in place of remains, which are expected to take months to identify. Some relatives, including Muslim families, expressed frustration that they could not yet bury their dead, as dictated by their religious beliefs.
“The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members,” one family member told the Associated Press. “We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones.”
Dagmawit Moges, the country’s transport minister, said at a press conference on Saturday that it could take up to six months to identify victims but that death certificates would be issued in a couple of weeks, AFP reports. She said the investigation into the crash of flight 302 would take “considerable time.”
The brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, was carrying passengers and crew from 35 countries across the world, according to Ethiopian Airlines. Kenyan, Canadian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Italian and American citizens were among those on board.
Ethiopian airlines employees held a memorial service for deceased colleagues and passengers on Friday.
The crash was the second to involve the Boeing 737 Max 8 in recent months, following a Lion Air jet in Indonesia that went down over the Java Sea last October, also just minutes after takeoff.
In response to ongoing safety concerns over the Max 8, dozens of countries, including the U.S., moved this week to ground the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement on Wednesday that its temporary grounding order would remain in effect “pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.”
The FAA said new evidence at the site of the plane’s impact, coupled with newly refined satellite data tracking the aircraft’s flight path, show similarities with the Lion Air incident.
Boeing said in a statement that it continues to have “full confidence” in the plane’s safety, but that it was recommending temporarily suspending operations of the entire global fleet of the 737 Max aircraft, totaling 371 planes.
The investigation into the cause of the crash continues in Ethiopia and France, where the country’s air accident investigation authority has agreed to help handle the incident.
French authorities said on Saturday that they’ve been able to extract data from one of the plane’s two black boxes, as NPR’s David Welna reports. They say they’ve turned the audio files from the cockpit voice recorder over to Ethiopian investigators and that they’ll continue work on the other black box, the flight data recorder.