Family buries mold of soil in symbolic burial for plane crash victim

Simon Munyao hold a "coffin" that contains charred soil that was obtained from Ethiopian airlines crash site during the "soil burial" at their home in kitise, Makueni county. Ann Mukui was among the 157 people who perished in the Ill-feted Ethiopian airlines flight that crashed weeks ago. [Photo: Standard]

The charred soil that weighed a kilogram was placed into a small casket that measured one feet in length and half a foot 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 crash. 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 sent Mukui off - burying charred soil instead of her body.

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The gloomy ceremony took 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 organisation, where she worked before she died, broke into tears as they bid 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 the DNA testing was likely to take.

Devoted Catholic

The church eulogised Mukui as a devoted Catholic who “dedicated her life to serving Christ”. The mass was led by priests from Consolata Shrines Mission in Nairobi.

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

He 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.

Munyao said on the day the plane crashed, he had exchanged text messages with his wife. In the messages, Mukui said she was making a connection flight to Nairobi through Addis Ababa.

“On March 10 she sent me a text message saying she was grateful to God for granting her safe travel from Italy to Ethiopia.

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“By 9.30am on the day she was to arrive, we were at the airport with my children ready to receive her. It never happened. At 4pm, I confirmed she was travelling in the Ethiopian plane that had crashed that morning,” said Munyao. 

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

Mukui’s brother Pully Mutua said when they got information about her 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 unrecognisable.”

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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.”

Mukui is survived by three children, who described her as a happy mother who wished them the best.

“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 Mutheu Munyao, seven and a pupil at Oshwal Academy, Nairobi.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, crashed two weeks ago six minutes after departing Addis Ababa for Nairobi. At least 32 Kenyans died in the crash.

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Ethiopian AirlinesAnn Mukui MunyaoBoeing 737 MAX 8Soil