Ethiopian Airlines buried the remains of crash victims - but didn't give families enough notice to attend the funeral

boeing 737 max ethiopian airlines

Unidentified victims' remains from the March, 2019 crash of a Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia were laid to rest on Thursday by workers from Ethiopian Airlines.

But the two companies gave victims' family members so little notice, that only two of 157 victims' relatives were able to get to the site in time, according to the BBC.Advertisement

Eight months after the crash southeast of Addis Ababa, the crater where the plane impacted the ground was covered, marking the end of the evidence-gathering investigation.

Until this week, BBC reported, the crater still had human remains that had not been successfully identified. The size of the debris field - resulting from the sheer force of the plane's impact - combined with the rural location contributed to difficulty securing the scene from animals and the elements. Recent seasonal rains helped uncover additional debris and widen the field.

The airline has previously claimed that bureaucratic issues with its insurers have delayed payments to victims' families, and proper treatment of newly uncovered remains.

On Thursday, however, remains that had previously been removed for forensic analysis, but couldn't be identified, were placed in coffins and buried in the crater as it was filled in - something that families had previously requested. Officials from the airline and Boeing reportedly attended a ceremony at the scene.

However, the BBC reported, several family members confirmed that they only had "days" of notice, which was not enough time to travel to the rural location. "They've robbed us of our closure," Zipporah Kuria, whose father was killed in the crash, told the BBC.Advertisement

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya, was killed in the crash, told Business Insider that he and his wife only had "a couple of days" of notice from the airline.

"We've been urging the airline for months to bury them," he said. "To keep the sun away, to keep the rain off, to keep animals away. And all we ever get is an automated email acknowledging our message."

He said that several Boeing employees who were reportedly in attendance were in the area anyway, liaising with an organization that he helped found to support logistical needs of victims' families.Advertisement

Robert A. Clifford, the lead counsel representing family members of victims from the Ethiopian Airlines crash in a case against Boeing, told Business Insider that the short notice given to family members was "shocking and deplorable."

"This is completely appalling and inexcusable, especially after the family members have been pleading for months for the return of any remains and with some of them having already completed funerals," Clifford said. "Why were these families not provided the opportunity by the airline to attend this burial, when even Boeing, in the area doing other work, was able to be there?"

"This just personifies the lack of effective communication that the airline has had with these families who are from 35 countries around the world. You'd think they'd have more compassion."Advertisement

Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines did not immediately return a request for comment.

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