Family buries soil as they mourn mother in Ethiopian plane crash

Simon Munyao holds the remains of his wife Ann Mukui.[ Steve Nzioka, Standard]
The charred soil that weighed a kilogram was placed into a small casket that measured one feet in length and half a feet in width, as the symbolic burial took place.

The soil that was retrieved from the site where the Ethiopian airlines plane crashed, symbolised the body of Ann Mukui Munyao.

Ann was among the 157 people killed in the plane. The soil was slowly lowered into the grave, as Ann's husband, Simon Munyao, and the rest of the family watched solemnly.

Mr Munyao, and his three children's pain was aggravated by the odd manner in which they were sending Ann of to eternal rest - burying charred soil, instead of their mother's body.

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The gloomy ceremony was taking place in Mbata village, Kitise location of Makueni County on Saturday.

Once the 'coffin' was lowered into the grave, relatives and Ann's colleagues from TechSoup Global organization where Ann worked broke into tears as they forbid her farewell.

Munyao said the family was forced to bury the mold of soil they had scooped from the scene of the accident due to the long period that the DNA testing would take.

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Devoted Catholic

The church eulogised Ann as a devoted Catholic who dedicated her life to serving Christ.

The mass was led by priests from consolata shrines mission in Nairobi.

Munyao remembered in agony the last good moments he shared with his wife before the misfortune befell them.

She described her as a God-fearing woman who often visited spiritual sites around the world for prayer.

“My wife used to find time after work and visit spiritual sites in Italy like original Consolata shrines in Turin. She was very happy," Munyao said.

On that fateful day, Munyao averred that he had exchanged text messages with his wife. In the messages, she said she was making a connection flight to Nairobi through Addis Abbaba.

“On March 10 she sent me a text message saying she was grateful to God for granting her safe travel from Italy to Ethiopia," Narrated Munyao as mourners listened gravely. 

"By 9:30 am on the day she was to arrive, we were at the airport together with my children ready to receive her. It never happened. At 4 pm I confirmed she was travelling in the Ethiopian plane that had crashed that morning."

He said a last minute change of plans, where the family decided that Ann travels alone before Munyao and the children join her, saved him and the children. The loss would have been unbearable.

Ann’s brother Pully Mutua said when they received information about Ann’s death, their parents' hearts were broken.

Faded hope

Mr Mutua said they were shocked when they visited the plane crash site: “We were saddened when we visited the Ethiopian site. We hoped to come back with Ann’s body. But our hopes faded. We were told that the bodies were shredded into small parts. They were unrecognizable."

He said after deep thought, they decided to take the soil home: “It was a hard decision. It was a tearful thing but we are at peace with it."
She is survived by three children and they described her mother as a happy mum who wished the best for them.

“Mum, your departure was too sudden, untimely and unexpected. Mum, intercede wherever you are so that I become the girl you wanted me to be,” said Ann's daughter Mutheu Munyao, 7, a pupil at Oshwal Academy, Nairobi.

The Ethiopian airlines plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, went down some weeks ago, six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa headed to Nairobi. At least 32 Kenyans perished in the crash. 

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Ethiopian plane crashAnn Mukui MunyaoSimon Munyao