Written by Gillian Flaccus, CNN
By Gillian Flaccus, CNN
To an anguished Canadian community in the Ethiopian capital, Toronto, two recent plane crashes are akin to watching a dead sibling caught in a high-speed crash.
As Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 skidded off the runway Tuesday, killing 157 people on board and seven on the ground, Shaundi Adreas was pushing for action.
“It’s very hard not to feel helpless and not to think you could have done more,” the Mennonite minister told CNN at a coffee shop in Drake Square — the historically Ethiopian neighborhood that straddles the city’s main expressway.
The flight was heading to Addis Ababa, home to the country’s largest mosque and several prominent Christian churches, in addition to roughly half a million Muslims.
The Canadian community, known locally as Hawassa, is located in Drake Square, just a few blocks from the scene of the crash. So is Lorna Bird, principal of the Henley School — the first Canadian public school in Ethiopia.
Their flight was also en route to Addis Ababa from Toronto, and was killed in the crash.
A still from a 2006 video shows a Canadian trainee pilot dressed in a flight suit with an Ethiopian flag pin. CNN
Last week, though, it was two more Canadian flight crews who brought the disaster home.
A Shandong Airlines plane, bound for Toronto, crashed at Beijing’s airport on Saturday, killing 23 people on board and all 17 people on the ground.
In its letter of condolence, the Toronto community remembers two victims of the crash:
• William Hancox, a former chairman of Shandong Airlines and president of the Canadian-Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce. He was a vice-president and a director of Edmonton International Airport, where a memorial service is being held today.
• Gordon Sharp, who was vice president of operations and SVP of CTA Insurance, and was serving as a marshal on the Shandong Airlines plane, according to the Toronto Star.
He was one of many international staff members traveling on a Monday flight, which meant he would not be able to attend the memorial service.
“I met him 10 years ago,” said Adreas. “As a person, not as a Turkish guy or a fellow Ethiopian, he was a dear friend of mine.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also mourned the two crash victims, saying in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the tragic news.
“Both were passionate about their work and made a significant impact in their countries, communities and beyond,” he said.
Trudeau also issued a joint statement with Premier Doug Ford of Ontario, on the need for airlines to have “critical human resource” in place.
The Canadian Press reported that Shandong Airlines lost 10 members of its on-ground staff in the plane crash. According to Beijing newspaper Civil Aviation Daily, the plane clipped a snow bank at the airport.
“Tragically, the two crewmembers, both of whom were young and relatively inexperienced, were killed,” an airport spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Canadian Press.
Shandong Airlines officials did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Officials are still investigating the causes of the crash, said Hualu Lu, deputy director of the aviation department of China’s Ministry of Transport.
Though both incidents happened on the same day, it’s still not clear if they are related.