Ethiopian Airlines crash: Nine UK nationals dead, says Foreign Office

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Media captionJoanna Toole's father said it was "tragic" she would not be able to achieve more with the UN

At least nine Britons were on board the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday, the Foreign Office now says.

The crash happened six minutes after the Boeing 737 Max 8 took off from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, for Nairobi in Kenya, killing all 157 people on board.

Tributes have been paid to the UK nationals who died, including UN worker Joanna Toole, and University of Plymouth graduate Sarah Auffret.

Kenyan and British dual national Joseph Waithaka was also among the victims.

UK aid worker Sam Pegram, of Lancashire, was also among the nine, the BBC has been told.

Geneva-based Mr Pegram, 25 and from Penwortham, was an intern with the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The Lancashire Evening Post quoted Mr Pegram's mother Deborah, who said: "Sam was so looking forward to going to Nairobi. He loved the work he was doing.

"We can't believe this has happened. We're totally devastated."

It was initially reported that seven UK nationals were on the flight, but another two passengers were discovered to be dual nationals travelling on another passport, the Foreign Office said.

Earlier, the father of 36-year-old Joanna spoke of his pride in his daughter's achievements and said it was "tragic" that she would not be able to achieve more in her career with the UN.

Adrian Toole told Devon Live his daughter was a "very soft and loving person" and that they were "still in a state of shock" over her death.

Ms Toole, who was from Exmouth but was living in Rome and worked for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was travelling to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

The director of the FAO, Manuel Barange, tweeted: "So profoundly sad and lost for words at the loss of our wonderful @FAOfish officer @JoannaToole.

"A wonderful human being, who loved her work with a passion. Our love to her family and loved ones."

Image copyright AECO/PA
Image caption Sarah Auffret was also travelling to the UN Environment Assembly

Ms Auffret, believed to have had dual British and French nationality, was a polar tourism expert and had been travelling to Nairobi to talk about how to tackle marine plastic pollution at the UN event.

She grew up in Brittany in northern France before going on to live in the UK, Australia, Germany, Argentina, Japan, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Norwegian media reported she was aged 30 and lived in Tromso, Norway.

A spokesman for the University of Plymouth, which she graduated from in 2007, described her as "an exemplary student who fully embraced university life and took every opportunity to develop herself while she was here".

Her employers, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, said they were "shocked and heartbroken" to learn of her death.

Image copyright Ben Kuria
Image caption Joseph Waithaka was a father of three

Joseph Waithaka - a 55-year-old Kenyan and British dual national - moved to the UK in 2004 and worked for the Humberside Probation Trust in Hull before returning to live in Kenya in 2015.

His son, Ben Kuria, said he was still in shock after hearing that his father was on board the flight and described him as a "generous" man who "loved justice".

Image copyright Jonathan Druion
Image caption The Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft that crashed on Sunday

Ethiopian Airlines said it had contacted the families of all the victims, who came from 30 nations.

At least 19 victims were affiliated with the United Nations, according to a UN official.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, the airline said. Investigators say they have found the "black box" flight data recorders.

Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash less than five months ago, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

The 737 Max 8 aircraft has only been in commercial use since 2017.

Several airlines have grounded the Boeing model following the disaster, but some airlines serving UK airports are continuing to fly the aircraft model involved in the deadly crash.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority said there were five Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft registered and operational in the UK, with a sixth due to enter operation this week. It said it was liaising "very closely" with the European Aviation Safety Agency as information about the crash emerged.

Meanwhile, two airlines that fly in and out of the UK and have the Boeing 737 Max 8 among their fleet said their aircraft were operating as normal.

Tui Airways, which became the first UK airline to receive a Max 8 last November, currently flies six of the type.

Scandinavian airline Norwegian serves London Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh and has 18 Max 8s in service.

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