Ethiopian Airlines jet was spewing smoke, swerved and dipped before crash created basketball court-sized crater

According to a witness of the crash, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was 'swerving and dipping' and spewing smoke as it plummeted to the ground


                            Ethiopian Airlines jet was spewing smoke, swerved and dipped before crash created basketball court-sized crater

The black box of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that claimed the lives of 157 people on board in a horrific crash has now been recovered from the rubble. According to reports, the airline confirmed the digital flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder were both recovered, and the black box was partially damaged, the Mirror reported.

As disaster experts attempted to establish what caused the worst air disaster in Ethiopia's history, a witness said the plane was "swerving and dipping" and spewing smoke as it crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa Sunday morning.

A piece of the fuselage of ET Flight 302 can be seen in the foreground as local residents collect debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)
A piece of the fuselage of ET Flight 302 can be seen in the foreground as local residents collect debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)

The Boeing 737 Max 8 reportedly created a crater the size of a basketball court on its impact with the ground and exploded into flames. Search teams had to deploy heavy machinery in order to dig through the wreckage. The safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 is being seriously questioned after the same model crashed in the Java Sea off Indonesia in October, last year.

While flying the commercial aircraft Sunday, the pilot had reported a problem and requested to return to Addis Ababa, it was revealed. However, just six minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed at 8.44 a.m. local time in a field near the town of Bishoftu.

Speaking to CNN, witness Gebeyehu Fikadu said he was with three other people collecting firewood on a mountain when they spotted the plane go down. "I was in the mountain nearby when I saw the plane reach the mountain before turning around with a lot of smoke coming from the back and then crashed at this site," the 25-year-old said. "It crashed with a large boom. When it crashed luggage and clothes came burning down. Before it crashed the plane was swerving and dipping with a lot of smoke coming from the back and also making a very loud unpleasant sound before hitting the ground."

Rescue and recovery personnel use an earth mover to recover debris from a crater where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)
Rescue and recovery personnel use an earth mover to recover debris from a crater where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)

While the passengers from 35 nationalities were onboard the plane, at least seven of them were Britons, including UN aide Joanna Toole, 36, Kenyan and British dual citizenship holder Joseph Waithaka, 55, and French-British polar tourism expert Sarah Auffret, 30.

Toole and Auffret were two of many aboard the plane who were traveling to Nairobi for a UN Environment Programme assembly. Waithaka, on the other hand, was on his way home after visiting his wife and kids in the U.K. He had worked for the Probation Service in Hull, U.K., before moving back to Kenya in 2015.

As crews continued to recover the victims' remains, the jet's black box was found Monday in a partially damaged state, the BBC reported. In a similar case in October, 2018, a Lion Air commercial carrier crashed into the Java Sea just 12 minutes after take-off, instantly killing all 189 people on board the plane.

Local residents look at debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)
Local residents look at debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Getty)

Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its four remaining Boeing 737 Max 8 planes "as an extra safety precaution" until their viability can be established. Following suit, China and Indonesia have suspended operations of all 737 Max 8 jets in their respective countries. Realizing the possibility of design flaws, Cayman Airways has also announced it would ground its Max 8 fleet until further notice.

That said, the investigation into the crash is in its early stages. According to Boeing, there is no need to issue new guidelines to operators with its 737 Max 8 planes.