Tears still flowing one year after Ethiopian plane crash

John Quindos, during an interview at home in Kabatini, Bahati constituency, on October 15, 2019. His wife, daughter and three grandchildren were among the 33 Kenyans who perished in the Ethiopian Airline crash in March 2019. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

John Quindos is still heartbroken, one year after he lost five members of his family in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The plane crashed on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board.

The past one year has been difficult for Quindos. He has been crying for days.

For the past one week, Quindos has been making arrangements to travel to Bishoftu, Ethiopia, for the first anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash scheduled for tomorrow. Families of victims are expected to attend the memorial.

When we visited him at his home at Kabatini in Bahati Sub-county, Nakuru, he was forlorn.

The memorial plaques in his compound, of the five family members who died in the ill-fated flight, speaks volumes of the family’s anguish.

The weight of the death of his wife Anne Karanja, 61, daughter Caroline Nduta Karanja, 34, and grandchildren Ryan Njoroge, 7, Kerry Paul, 4, and nine-month-old Rubi Paul has taken a toll on him and the entire family.

Seated outside his house, he stares at the plaques bearing the names and portraits of his loved ones.

“It is still so hard to believe that my wife, daughter and my innocent grandchildren perished. My heart is still broken. Overcoming grief is not a one day affair. You have to mourn, cry and accept the eventuality as part of healing. I am yet to heal from the loss,” he said.

Quindos will join other families that lost their loved ones in marking the first anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed 157 people. “Visiting the site is part of the healing process. Each day, I pray for the souls of my wife, daughter and my three grandchildren whom I loved,” he added.

Mentor and friend

His wife of 35 years, Wangui, had travelled to visit her daughter Caroline in Canada. Caroline worked as an accountant, having acquired Canadian citizenship in 2017.

Anne was to stay in Canada for three months, but extended her stay to six months.

The five family members left Ontario, Canada, yearning to reunite with Quindos, but sadly, they never made it home. They boarded the ill-fated plane that crashed six minutes after take-off from Bole International Airport, killing all the 157 people on board, among them 32 Kenyans.

He confessed that his wife was everything to him – a mentor, a friend to his family and confidant.

Quindos said there has been no communication on compensation and that he will wait for a directive from the relevant authorities.

He buried the remains of his wife at his home in Kabatini. His daughter Caroline and the grandchildren were buried in Kiangai, the home of his son in-law Paul Njoroge (husband of Caroline).

Francis Yongi from Mzee Wanyama in Nakuru Town East constituency is also still mourning the death of his daughter Florence Wangari

The retired teacher has been longing to travel to Ethiopia to attend the anniversary planned by the Ethiopian government, but will not since he is ailing. He was involved in an accident that has left him bedridden.

Fresh memories

Two of his daughters will be travelling to the crash site.

“My wish was to visit the site where my daughter’s soul rested as we mark the first anniversary of the crash. I still have fresh memories of her,” he told The Standard at his home.

He was also planning to conduct Mass at his home but the event has been postponed.

“There are times I spend sleepless nights whenever I remember the pain my daughter was subjected to during the tragedy. I pray for her soul,” he said.

He had wished to travel to Ethiopia to know the fate of compensation as there has been no communication from the airline and Ethiopian government.

“Though nothing can be compared to my daughter’s life, I would like to know the progress on compensation, as there has been no communication from the relevant authority,” he said.

Sister Wangari, the third born in a family of seven, was travelling from Congo, where she was doing missionary work, to visit her family in Mbogoini, after being away for six years. She had been performing missionary work after training in Canada. She was also coming home to renew her passport.

Kenya Airports Authority also lost two senior managers in the fatal crash – Brig (rtd) George Kabugi and Juliet Otieno.

Families of those who lost their kin in the crash have filed suits against aircraft manufacturer Boeing for compensation. [Additional reporting by Kennedy Gachuhi]