A massive crater dug by the crashing plane suggested it had come down on a near-vertical trajectory.
A team of experts from Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States joined locals to collect almost anything at the site that might help experts piece together what happened. But their work is yet to provide most of the answers needed to comfort the grieving and increasingly desperate families.
“They should not tell us they are testing bodies; we know there is nothing,” one relative said. “Let them just tell us what they have collected and what they plan to do with it.”
Ethiopian officials were overwhelmed by the outpouring of anger and demands for answers from families of the victims, and at some point decided to suspend the first meeting.
Minutes later, they called a parallel meeting for Kenyans only, who lost the highest number of relatives in the crash, placed at 32 by the Ethiopian authorities. At the meeting, they were asked to give a team of scientists their DNA samples, but they refused, saying their concerns and demands had to be addressed first.
Journalists were barred from all the meeting areas yesterday. Cameras were not allowed into Skylight Hotel, owned by Ethiopian Airlines, where inconsolable family members are camping.
At some point, some of the family members walked out of the meeting in protest before they were convinced to get back in, the elephant in the room being how to identify their loved ones from near-nothing.
“The contentious issues are how they are going to identify bodies, whether the process has started, where the remains are, and whether relatives can see the remains,” said Mr George Orina, the deputy ambassador at the Kenyan Embassy in Ethiopia.
On arrival at Bole Airport, families were directed to a holding area before being led to the holding hotel, just five minutes away, where they were counselled and allocated rooms.
The airline said a panel made up of Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, and the Ethiopian Transport Authority had been set up to carry out the investigations, and that “once the identities of the deceased are identified, their bodies will be delivered to their families and loved ones”.
A Kenyan woman who was widowed by the accident when she was already mourning her mother was last evening stuck between travelling back to Nairobi to bury her mother and waiting for answers about her husband’s remains.