'My world went silent,' says man who lost wife, children and mother-in-law in Ethiopia plane crash
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, April 10, 2019 7:02PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2019 8:44PM EDT
A man who lost his wife, three children and his mother-in-law after a plane crashed minutes after taking off in Ethiopia last month hopes to connect with a Brampton family that lost six members in the same crash, saying that he can relate to the pain they are going through.
“The pain that I have, it’s not pain that can be shared with anyone,” Paul Njoroge said. “They are going through such kind of pain and I thought that, these are people I can relate with.”
Officials said that 157 people from 35 different countries were killed when a plane travelling from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed six minutes after taking off on March 10.
A month later, the family of those who died have yet to be reunited with their loved ones. Njoroge got on a plane the day after the crash and travelled to Kenya, hopeful be recover his family’s remains.
“But when we got there, we learned that because of the nature of the crash, there were no bodies that were left intact,” he told CTV News Toronto. “It was really hard for everyone.”
After providing a DNA sample, Njoroge said he was told it would take about six months to identify the victims in the crash.
“It’s a long wait for us,” he said.
Njoroge’s wife, Carolyne Karanja, was travelling to Kenya with her seven-month-old baby Rubi, seven-year-old son Ryan, four-year-old daughter Kelly and her 60-year-old mother Ann Karanja.
While all of them are permanent residents of Canada, Rubi was the only one born in the country, making her one of 18 Canadians killed in the plane crash.
The family spent the last year living in Hamilton, but Njoroge said that he still worked in Bermuda and tried to visit his wife and children once a month. He was in the process of resigning from his job so that he could move to Canada permanently.
“I had (the letter) in draft,” he said. “We were just trying to figure out a date, a time I was going to leave and come to Toronto.”
Njoroge said that he had been married to his wife for seven years, having met at the University of Nairobi. He described his son, Ryan, as a “very energetic boy” who loved to play football, even when it was snowing outside.
His eldest daughter, Kelly, was “still finding her way in life,” Njoroge said. Her father said that she really enjoyed singing and dancing in the house.
Njoroge described Rubi as a very jovial baby who “brought happiness into our small family.”
“Without them, my world went silent,” he said.
Njoroge’s wife and children were accompanying his mother-in-law back home to Kenya on the day of the crash. It would have been Rubi’s first time meeting her grandfather.
The family had already spent 14 hours in the air travelling from Ontario to Addis Ababa. The flight from Ethiopia’s capital to Nairobi is about two hours.
Njoroge said he can’t get the crash scene out of his mind, describing the memory as “painful to think of.”
“They were almost home. They had one and a half hours to go,” he said. “To think what they went through over the six minutes, the fear, and my wife knowing that she has all the three kids in that aircraft and my mom-in-law, what went through her mind.”
The cause of the deadly crash is still unknown. Last month, an airline official told The Associated Press that a partially damaged "black box" had been recovered from the aircraft.
An investigation into the incident is underway.
Now that he is back in Canada, Njoroge said that his family’s residence no longer feels like home. He is currently staying with friends in Toronto until he figures out what to do next. Njoroge hopes to connect with other GTA families who are experiencing similar tragedy, to see if they can take comfort in their loses together.
“Every time I sit down and think about my wife, my children, my mom in law, it’s just too painful to bear with anyone,” he said. “I know there is a family that lost 6 members. Talking to them, getting to know how they are doing, what they are doing to make important steps in their lives. That’s why I had to see how I can reach out to them.”
With files from CTV News Toronto's Tracy Tong