Retired Army Capt., California Brothers Among Ethiopia Plane Crash Victims - NBC Bay Area
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Retired Army Capt., California Brothers Among Ethiopia Plane Crash Victims

157 people from 35 countries died Sunday morning when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner crashed shortly after takeoff

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    (Inset) Americans Matt Vecere, left, Mucaad Hussein, center, and Antoine Lewis, were among the victims who died when an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed shortly after take-off on March 10, 2019.

    A decorated army captain from Illinois, two brothers from California and a writer from South Jersey were among the American victims of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed 157 people.

    Retired U.S. Army Capt. Antoine Lewis, 40, of Matteson, Illinois, was returning from a vacation in Africa when Flight 302 crashed shortly after taking off from Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, NBC Chicago reported. Lewis leaves behind his wife and a 15-year-old son.

    "Captain Lewis was raised by a patriotic family that has always shared a genuine concern for their neighbors, friends and fellow man," Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin said in a statement. "The Village of Matteson will continue to keep the Lewis family in our hearts and prayers."

    Brothers Melvin and Bennett Riffel from Redding, Calif., were also passengers on the flight from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, Kenya. The pair was returning from a trip to Australia, according to family friend and Redding Chamber of Commerce president Jake Mangas.

    157 Dead After Plane Crashes in Ethiopia

    [NATL] 157 Dead After Plane Crashes in Ethiopia

    The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-8 Max plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 on board.

    (Published Monday, March 11, 2019)

    “These are two guys that when they’re in the room, you really know it,” Mangas told NBC News. “These guys were just wonderful, and they’re going to be missed deeply by this community [and] for those family and friends that knew them the best.”

    Mucaad Hussein Abdalla, from St. Cloud, Minnesota, was en route to Kenya to visit family after spending a few weeks in Morocco, The Saint Cloud Times reported. The recently married 31-year-old was traveling with his wife when the plane went down, according to family.  Abdalla, also known as Siraaj Mu'aad, moved to the Midwest from Ethiopia in the 12th grade and later became a U.S. citizen, family and friends told the paper. 

    New Jersey native Matt Vecere grew up surfing in Sea Isle City and later moved to California, NBC Philadelphia reported. The 43-year-old, who dedicated much of his life to volunteering for countless charitable organizations, was among the eight U.S. citizens killed in the plane crash. His employer, Swiss-based IQAir, confirmed the loss of “our friend and colleague” in a statement posted to its website.

    “Matt was passionate about the environment, civil rights, social and environmental justice, and advocating for those less fortunate. His passion turned to direct action, rolling up his sleeves to serve causes where he could make a tangible difference,” the Vecere family said in a statement, adding that “we are heartbroken more than words can express.”

    Vecere was in Africa for the U.N. Environment Assembly, according to his family. Four other Americans were on board the doomed flight but have not yet been identified by officials.  

    Dozens of international aid workers hailing from several countries in Africa and around the globe also lost their lives. Here are some of their stories. 

    Kenya: 32 Victims

    — Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation, was named as being among the dead by Sofapaka Football Club. He was returning home after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

    — Cedric Asiavugwa, who studied international business and economic law at Georgetown University in Washington, was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee's mother, the university said in a statement.

    — The aid organization CARE says Kenyan colleague Immaculate Odero was among the crash victims.

    A statement says she had been a regional security officer for the Horn of Africa, "dedicated to keeping her colleagues in the region safe." She took on her role "with great enthusiasm."

    It says she was married, with a daughter.

    Canada: 18 Victims

    — Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottawa, was on his way to a meeting of the African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council in Nairobi, Nigeria's representative to the panel, John O. Oba, told The Associated Press.

    Adesanmi is the author of "Naija No Dey Carry Last," a collection of satirical essays.

    "Pius was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy," said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton's president and vice chancellor.

    Adesanmi was the winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African non-fiction writing in 2010.

    — Amina Ibrahim Odowaa, 33, and her 5-year-old daughter, Sofia Faisal Abdulkadir, were on board the jet. Odowaa's brother, Mohamed Hassan Ali, said they lived in Edmonton and were traveling to Kenya to visit with relatives.

    — Derick Lwugi, an accountant with the City of Calgary, was also among the victims, his wife, Gladys Kivia, said. He leaves behind three children, aged 17, 19 and 20. Lwugi had been headed to Kenya to visit both of their parents.

    — Jessica Hyba, 43, had worked as a senior external relations officer with the U.N. refugee agency in Mogadishu, Somalia, since February. She joined the agency in 2013 in Iraq, and before that worked for Care Canada, Care International and UNICEF. She leaves behind a family including two daughters, aged 9 and 12.

    Ethiopia: 9 Victims

    — Catholic Relief Services said four of its Ethiopian staff members died. The aid group in a statement said Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu had been traveling to Nairobi for training.

    The four had worked with the organization for as long as a decade. They worked in procurement, logistics and finance.

    — The aid group Save the Children said an Ethiopian colleague died in the crash.

    Tamirat Mulu Demessie was a technical adviser on child protection in emergencies and "worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable children are safe during humanitarian crises," the group said in a statement.

    — Tearful colleagues mourned Ethiopian Airlines pilot Yared Getachew and first officer Ahmed Noorh. Another Ethiopian Airlines captain, Estifanos Mulugeta, said that he had flown to Nairobi with Yared several times and "he likes to fly to Nairobi because his parents live in that city."

    A first officer, Hamza Jemal, said Ahmed had been going to Nairobi to pursue a business venture and had managed to rearrange his schedule to be on the flight.

    China: 8 Victims

    — A statement from the Chinese Embassy in Addis Ababa said the Chinese victims were five men and three women, including one person from the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.

    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said two United Nations workers were among the eight Chinese killed. Four were working for a Chinese company and two had travelled to Ethiopia for "private matters."

    Italy: 8 Victims

    — Paolo Dieci, one of the founders of the International Committee for the Development of Peoples, was among the dead, the group said on its website.

    "The world of international cooperation has lost one of its most brilliant advocates and Italian civil society has lost a precious point of reference," wrote the group, which partners with UNICEF in northern Africa. UNICEF Italia sent a tweet of condolences over Dieci's death, noting that the group was a partner in Kenya, Libya and Algeria.

    — Sebastiano Tusa, the Sicilian regional assessor to the Italian Culture Ministry, was en route to Nairobi when the plane crashed, according to Sicilian regional President Nello Musemeci. Tusa was also a noted underwater archaeologist.

    — The World Food Program confirmed that two of the Italian victims worked for the Rome-based U.N. agency. A WFP spokeswoman identified the victims as Virginia Chimenti and Maria Pilar Buzzetti.

    — Three other Italians worked for Bergamo-based humanitarian agency Africa Tremila: Carlo Spini, his wife, Gabriella Viggiani and treasurer Matteo Ravasio.

    France: 7 Victims

    — A group representing members of the African diaspora in Europe is mourning the loss of its co-chairperson and "foremost brother," Karim Saafi. The 38-year-old French-Tunisian was on an official mission representing the African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe, the group announced on its Facebook page.

    "Karim's smile, his charming and generous personality, eternal positivity, and his noble contribution to youth employment, diaspora engagement and Africa's socio-economic development will never be forgotten," the post read. Saafi left behind a fiancee.

    — Sarah Auffret, a French-British national living in Tromsoe, northern Norway, was on the plane, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators said. Auffret, a staffer, was on the way to Nairobi to talk about a Clean Seas project in connection with the U.N. Environment Assembly this week, the company said in a statement.

    Britain: 7 Victims

    — Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Exmouth, Devon, was heading to Nairobi to attend the United Nations Environment Assembly. Her father, Adrian, described her as a "very soft and loving" woman whose "work was not a job — it was her vocation."

    He told the DevonLive website Toole used to keep homing pigeons and pet rats and traveled to the remote Faroe Islands to prevent whaling.

    — Joseph Waithaka, 55, who lived in Hull, England, for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya, also died in the crash, his son told the Hull Daily Mail. Ben Kuria said his father had worked for the Probation Service, adding: "He helped so many people in Hull who had found themselves on the wrong side of the law."

    Egypt: 6 Victims

    Germany: 5 Victims

    — The U.N. migration agency said that one of its staffers, German citizen Anne-Katrin Feigl, was en route to a training course in Nairobi.

    — The Rev. Norman Tendis was a long-time pastor in the protestant congregation of St. Ruprecht in Villach, Austria. The World Council of Churches said Monday that he was traveling to the U.N. environment summit in Nairobi.

    The 51-year-old is survived by his wife and three daughters.

    — The German development aid organization GIZ said one of its staff was also on the plane. GIZ spokeswoman Tanja Stumpff said the woman was on a business trip. She declined to provide further details, citing privacy reasons.

    India: 4 Victims

    Slovakia: 4 Victims

    — A lawmaker of the Slovak Parliament said his wife, daughter and son were killed in the crash. Anton Hrnko, a legislator for the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was "in deep grief" over the deaths of his wife, Blanka; son, Martin; and daughter, Michala. Their ages weren't immediately available.

    Martin Hrnko worked for the Bubo travel agency and was traveling on vacation to Kenya, the agency said.

    Sweden: 4 Victims

    — Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced "with immense shock and grief" that its chief executive, Jonathan Seex, was among the fatalities.

    — The Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders, an international human rights group, said employee Josefin Ekermann, 30, was on board the plane. Ekermann, who worked to support human rights defenders, was on her way to meet Kenyan partner organizations. The group's executive director, Anders L. Pettersson, says "Josefin was a highly appreciated and respected colleague."

    — The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency said a "longtime and highly appreciated colleague" was killed. It said it wouldn't publish the person's name.

    Austria: 3 Victims

    —Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer confirmed that three Austrian doctors in their early 30s were on board the flight. The men were on their way to Zanzibar, he said, but he could not confirm the purpose of their trip.

    Russia: 3 Victims

    —The Russian Embassy in Ethiopia said airline authorities had identified its deceased citizens as Yekaterina Polyakova, Alexander Polyakov and Sergei Vyalikov.

    Russian news reports identified Polyakova and Polyakov as a married couple. State news agency RIA-Novosibirsk said the three were visiting Africa as tourists.

    Israel: 2 Victims

    Morocco: 2 Victims

    — Ahmed Chihab, an official in the government's environment department, and Professor El Hassan Sayouti of Hassan II University of Casablanca planned to be part of Morocco's delegations at the United Nations meeting in Nairobi, according to Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani. The government did not provide more information about the two men.
    ___

    Poland: 2 Victims 

    — Poland's Foreign Ministry says one of the Polish victims was a longtime employee of the ministry who worked at the Polish Embassy in Cairo and was on a job assignment. The other victim was a minor with dual Polish and Kenyan citizenship.

    Spain: 2 Victims

    — Pilar Martinez Docampo, a 32-year-old worker with a nongovernment organization, was on the plane. Her hometown of Cangas do Morrazo in western Spain declared three days of mourning.

    — Jordi Dalmau, a 46-year-old engineer for Almar Water Solutions, headquartered in Madrid, was among the victims. He had recently been named general manager of the Mombasa desalination plant in Kenya.

    Belgium: 1 Victim

    Djibouti: 1 Victim
    ___

    Indonesia: 1 Victim

    Ireland: 1 Victim

    — Irishman Michael Ryan was among seven people from the United Nations' World Food Program who were killed.

    The Rome-based aid worker and engineer known as Mick was thought to be married with two children. His work projects included creating safe conditions for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and assessing the damage to rural roads in Nepal that were blocked by landslides.

    His mother, Christine Ryan, told broadcaster RTE "he never wanted a 9 to 5 job. He put everything into his work."

    Irish premier Leo Varadkar said: "Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Program."

    Mozambique: 1 Victim

    Nepal: 1 Victim

    Nigeria: 1 Victim

    —The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it received the news of retired Ambassador Abiodun Oluremi Bashu's death "with great shock."

    Bashu, born in 1951, had served in different capacities both in Nigeria and abroad, including in Austria, Ivory Coast and Iran. He also served as secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    At the time of his death, Bashu was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

    Norway: 1 Victim

    —The Red Cross of Norway confirmed that Karoline Aadland, a finance officer, was on the flight. Aadland, 28, was originally from Bergen, Norway. The Red Cross said she was traveling to Nairobi for a meeting.

    Rwanda: 1 Victim

    — Jackson Musoni, 31, had worked since late 2017 as associate field coordinator for the U.N. refugee agency in Sudan's East Darfur region. He joined the agency in Rwanda in 2014 and previously worked for the Rwandan foreign ministry. He leaves behind a family including three children aged 8, 5 and 4. 

    Saudi Arabia: 1 Victim

    Serbia: 1 Victim

    — Serbia's Foreign Ministry confirmed that a citizen of Serbia was on the plane and gave no details. Serbian media identified him as Djordje Vdovic, 54. The Vecernje Novosti newspaper reported Vdovic worked for the U.N. World Food Program.

    Somalia: 1 Victim

    Sudan: 1 Victim

    — The U.N. refugee agency said Nadia Adam Abaker Ali, 40, was among the victims. She joined the agency in Nyala, Sudan, in 2010 and worked to help Sudanese people fleeing from the Darfur region. She leaves behind a husband and 6-year-old daughter.

    Togo: 1 Victim

    — The University of Lome in Togo says researcher Glato Kodjo was among the dead.

    A statement says the entire university community in the West African nation saluted the memory of Kodjo, a biotechnologist and a specialist in plant physiology. 

    "His passion for research has taken him on this ultimate journey," the statement says. "May he rest in peace!"

    Uganda: 1 Victim

    Yemen: 1 Victim

    U.N. passport: 1 Victim