2020 Photo Contest, World Press Photo of the Year Nominee

Relative Mourns Flight ET 302 Crash Victim


Mulugeta Ayene

Associated Press

14 March, 2019

A relative of a victim of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 throws dirt in her face as she mourns at the crash site, on 14 March. The force of the impact made human remains difficult to identify.

On 10 March, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, a Boeing 737 MAX, disappeared from the radar six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa airport and crashed into a field, killing all 157 people on board. The impact was so great that both engines were buried in a crater 10 meters deep, and human remains almost impossible to identify. On 14 November, eight months after the crash, the site of the impact was covered and the unidentified remains of victims buried in rows of identical coffins. Comparisons were made with the crash of a Lion Air aircraft, also a 737 MAX, 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta in October 2018. Countries across the world, initially with the exception of the US, grounded the 737 MAX. First reports showed that pilots had been unable to prevent the plane repeatedly nosediving, despite following procedures recommended by Boeing. It appeared that in both cases pilots were struggling to deal with an automated safety system designed to prevent stalling, which was repeatedly pushing the nose of the plane down. It seemed that the system was being activated, possibly due to a faulty sensor, even though nothing was wrong. It later emerged that American Airlines pilots had confronted Boeing about potential safety issues with the MAX. Boeing had resisted their calls but promised a software fix, which had not been done by the time Flight ET302 crashed. Planes remained grounded in early 2020, Boeing expected the crisis to cost US$18.6 billion, and CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired. 

About the photographer

Mulugeta Ayene

Mulugeta Ayene is an Ethiopian photojournalist and fine art photographer living in Addis Ababa.    While his work covers a wide range of subjects, recurrent themes in...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Canon EOS 5D Mark III

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