Ethiopian Airlines plane crashes in Beirut


An Ethiopian Airlines plane probably crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after taking off from Beirut early this morning, state-run Lebanese National News Agency reported.

The Boeing Co. aircraft disappeared at about 4:30 a.m., with 92 people passengers and crew onboard, the report said. The plane disappeared from radar screens after leaving Rafik Hariri International Airport at 2:10 a.m., said an airport official, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.

Flight ET409 was bound for Addis Ababa, according to the airport’s Web site. The passengers included about 50 Lebanese nationals, with most of the remainder from Ethiopia, Sky News reported, without saying where it got the information from.

Lebanon has been hit by a wave of torrential rain in the past week.
Calls to state-owned Ethiopian Airlines’ media office in Addis Ababa and to the mobile phone of Chief Executive Officer Girma Wake went unanswered. Boeing spokeswoman Sandy Angers said she didn’t have any confirmation of the crash yet and wasn’t able to immediately comment.

Ethiopian Airlines operates a fleet of 37 predominately Boeing planes, according to its Web site. It also has orders outstanding for aircraft including 10 787 Dreamliners, 12 Airbus SAS A350s and 5 Boeing 777s, according to the site. The airline and Boeing announced a deal for 10 737s on Jan. 22.

The carrier hasn’t suffered a fatal crash since November 1996, when 125 people died during a hijacking onboard a Boeing 767 bound for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

–With assistance from Susanna Ray in Seattle and Ben Livesey in London. Editors: Neil Denslow, Anand Krishnamoorthy.