Father's tribute to 'warm' and 'passionate' daughter killed in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

The father of the first named British victim of the Ethiopian Airlines flight which crashed minutes after take-off has paid tribute to his daughter who was so "warm" that "nobody had a bad word to say about her".

Joanna Toole was one of seven Britons among the 157 people killed when the plane crashed six minutes after taking off for Nairobi, Kenya, from Addis Ababa at 8.38am local time on Sunday but crashed around Bishoftu, some 31 miles (50km) south of the capital at 8.44am.

Ms Toole, who worked for the fisheries department of the United Nations was "as as warm and as good with people as she was with animals", her father said as he paid tribute to her.

The 36-year-old was so "well-balanced" and "had such a warm touch, you'd not find anybody say a bad word against her", Adrian Toole said.

He recounted how his daughter had been a "passionate animal campaigner" throughout her life, advocating for the rights of badgers at the age of eight in her hometown of Exmouth.

Mr Toole added that he was "proud" that his daughter had been able to turn her love of animals into a job, and had recently had a project on trying to stop marine animals becoming entangled in fishing nets accepted as a UN official programme - something that would now become her legacy, he said.

Mr Toole continued that his daughter had only just settled down in Rome after she and her partner had managed to get jobs at the UN after much hard work.

Ms Toole was also praised as a "wonderful human being" by the director of the department she worked in.

Manuel Barange, the director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN fisheries and aquaculture department tweeted that he was "profoundly sad and lost for words" over the death of his colleague.

He added the Ms Toole had been travelling to Nairobi to represent FAO fish at the UN Environment Assembly which begins in the Kenyan capital on Monday.

At least 19 employees of UN-affiliated organisations were killed in the crash, including United Nations aid worker and engineer Michael (Mick) Ryan.

Mr Barange continued that his colleague was "a wonderful human being, who loved her work with a passion.

"Our love to her family and loved ones."

A second British victim was named as Joseph Waithaka - a 55-year-old Kenyan and British dual national.

Mr Waithaka had lived in Hull for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya in 2015.

Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Mr Waithaka's son, 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."

Dual Kenyan and British national Joseph Waithaka was killed in the crash. Credit: Facebook/Ben Kuria

The cause of the crash is yet to be determined but the airline confirmed the pilot had notified officials of difficulties and the plane had been cleared to turn around during its six minutes in the air.

An eyewitness described how there was an intense fire when the plane crashed and "everything is burnt down".

  • Debris from the plane litters the crash site in Bishoftu

There were no survivors among the 148 passengers and nine crew members - from at least 35 nationalities - on board.

Among the 157 dead were:

  • 32 Kenyans

  • 18 Canadians and Ethiopians (nine passengers and nine crew members)

  • Eight Chinese, Italians and Americans

  • Seven French

  • Six Egyptians

  • Five from the Netherlands and Germany

  • Four Indians and Slovakians

  • Three Russians, Austrians and Swedes

  • Two Spaniards, Israelis, Moroccans and Poles

  • One person from Belgium, Djibouti, Indonesia, Ireland, Mozambique, Norway, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Serbia, Togo, Uganda, Yemen, Nepal, Nigeria and one with a UN passport

Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko confirmed on Facebook that his wife Blanka, son Martin, and daughter Michala all died in the crash.

Hospitality company Tamarind Group - a Kenyan business which owns and runs restaurants, hotels and a casino - said its chief executive Jonathan Seex was killed in the crash.

Family members of the victims involved in a plane crash react at Addis Ababa international airport. Credit: AP

The UK's ambassador to Ethiopia confirmed the deaths of seven Britons in a video post in which he also said Foreign Office staff are working to find out more details on what happened.

Mr McPhail expressed his condolences to the victims and urged people worried about loved ones to follow the Foreign Office's social media channels for more information and details on who to contact if families and friends are worried about loved ones.

The British victims have not been named.

The British embassy in Ethiopia listed the emergency contact numbers for anyone worried about British nationals.

Earlier on Sunday morning, the plane had flown from Johannesburg to Addis Ababa, and previously underwent "rigorous" testing on February 4, according to the airline.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines' CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, visited the crash site and paid his condolences.

A image of Mr Gebremariam at the scene showed him picking up a piece of debris, seemingly from the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, seated right, holds a press briefing at the company headquarters in Addis Ababa. Credit: AP

Boeing, the manufacturer of the plane, said: "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team."

"A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

An Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on Sunday. Credit: PA

A statement from Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "deeply saddened to hear of the devastating loss of life following the plane crash in Ethiopia.

"At this very difficult time my thoughts are with the families and friends of the British citizens on board and all those affected by this tragic incident."

The Ethiopian prime minister's office offered condolences to families in a statement.

"My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board," Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said, as many Kenyans braced for the worst.

The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa's largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.

The Planespotters civil aviation database shows that the plane, a Boeing 737-8 MAX, was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in mid-November.

The airline is widely regarded as one of the best in Africa.

The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010, when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut killing all 90 people on board.

While the cause is not yet known, the crash shared similarities with last year's Lion Air jet plunging into the Java Sea, killing 189.

That crash also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashing minutes after takeoff.

In the Lion Air crash, pilots struggled to maintain control of the plane as its automatic safety system repeatedly pushed the aircraft's nose down.

It is thought that faulty information from sensors was the cause.