March 17, 2019 / 7:41 AM / 8 days ago

At Ethiopia flight memorial, white roses mark passing of lives

ADDIS ABABA, March 17 (Reuters) - An aircraft hangar in the Ethiopian capital was filled with the white roses as aviation staff gathered on Sunday to remember the two pilots and six crew, who perished along with 149 passengers in the Ethiopia Airlines crash a week ago.

Weeping women held slender single stems in their shaking hands and banks of the flowers, traditionally used to mark the passing of lives, were placed in front of a row of empty coffins at the ceremony.

A band - some of the musicians in tears - played traditional Amharic music. The music stopped temporarily as band members ran to comfort bereaved relatives who lunged forward, wailing to grieve over the coffins.

“Our deep sorrow cannot bring them back,” an Orthodox priest in a traditional black turban and black robes told the crowd.

“This is the grief of the world,” he said, as Ethiopian Airlines staff sobbed in each other’s arms.

At least the crash had taken place in Ethiopia - the holy land - he said, prompting “amens” from the crowd.

In faraway Paris, investigators are examining black box recorders to determine why the aircraft plunged into field shortly after take off from Addis Ababa, searching for similarities to an October Lion Air crash that killed 189 people.

Both crashes involved the same model of plane - a Boeing 737 MAX 8 - causing aviation authorities to ground the model around the world after last week’s accident.

But in the Ethiopian capital, families and airline staff were focused on honouring their dead.

In the aircraft hangar, a banner offered “deepest condolences and comfort” to the families of the deceased crew.

A female flight attendant spoke warmly of the deceased captain, Yared Getachew.

“He was a really nice person, a good person, all the words you can find to talk about a good person apply. He was a very kind human being,” she said, before dissolving in tears.

A service for the families of passengers is scheduled later on Sunday. Relatives of the families - more than 30 nationalities were onboard - will gather beneath the pink stone spires of Addis Ababa’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The families have been given charred earth from the crash site to bury, because most of the bodies were destroyed by the impact and fire. Identifying the small remains that have been collected may take up to six months.

Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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