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WASHINGTON —When Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plummeted to earth Sunday, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members, the captain, Yared Getachew, was en route from his adopted home, Ethiopia, to his country of birth, Kenya.
Although he was the youngest captain at the airline, 29-year-old Yared had completed the route between the East African nations’ capitals many times.
A veteran pilot with more than 8,000 hours of flight time and more than 10 years of experience, Yared is being remembered not only as an accomplished flyer but also a “special child.”
Yared’s father, Dr. Getachew Tesema, a surgeon, told VOA’s Amharic service his son was an “A” student, a swimmer so strong that classmates nicknamed him “Mr. Fish” and a young man engaged to be married.
“He was hard working and respected everyone, old or young,” Getachew said. “People loved him and respected him, and he was a blessing in so many ways. He was very close to me.”
The fifth of six children, Yared was born in Kenya in 1989. His mother, Rayan Shapi, is also a doctor and is Kenyan.
Yared excelled in school and returned to Ethiopia for college, later becoming a pilot for the largest airline in Africa and completing additional training in the United States.
“I convinced him to go to Ethiopia for education instead of South Africa. I brought him here. I have other children, but I thought he would bring change to Ethiopia,” Getachew said.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the crash, and details are emerging about the final moments of the aircraft, which fell to earth just six minutes after takeoff. Flight tracker information shows the Boeing 737 MAX-8 jet’s vertical speed was unstable, and Yared had radioed air traffic control to request a return to Bole International Airport just after taking off.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke from the rear of the aircraft before it crashed, according to the Associated Press.
“I just hope that they would have one stone to commemorate him, for history or for the next generation,” Getachew said. “Not only for him, but everybody who was lost. Something in their memory where their names are carved. That’s my only wish. I lost a son whom I loved.”
As the world seeks answers about the second deadly Boeing 737 MAX-8 crash in less than six months, Yared’s father has yet to reconcile life without his son.
“My brain is numb,” Getachew said. “There isn’t anybody in the family that could repress how good he is. He was a special generation, a special being.”
This story originated in VOA’s Amharic service.
Salem Solomon is a multimedia digital journalist with the Voice of America’s Africa Division. She covers the latest news from across the continent, and she also reports and edits in Amharic and Tigrigna.
Salem’s multimedia and data-driven projects include How Western DRC’s Ebola Outbreak Was Contained, Unrest: Ethiopia at a Crossroads, Zimbabwe in Transition, Hunger Across Africa and How Long Have Africa's Presidents Held Office?
Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Poynter.org and Reuters. She researches trends in analytics and digital journalism. For tips and inquiries, email: email@example.com.