Too soon to rule out sabotage in Ethiopian Air crash


Ethiopian Airlines said it was too soon to exclude any possibility including sabotage as the cause of a Boeing Co. 737 crash that killed 90 people off the Lebanese coast last month.

“The investigation is still in its early stage,” the carrier said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. The airline “does not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known.”

Flight ET409, bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, lost contact with air traffic controllers in stormy weather minutes after takeoff from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Jan. 25. No survivors have been found.

Reuters reported Feb. 9 that pilot error caused the crash, citing an unidentified person familiar with the investigation. Lebanese Information Minister Tariq Mitri said the same day that the cause hadn’t been confirmed.

Search crews retrieved one black box recorder Feb. 7 which has been sent to France for investigation. A second black box was recovered yesterday. Black boxes record pilot communications and technical data such as the aircraft’s altitude, speed and trajectory, which could help investigators determine the reason for the crash.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr has said that the “weather factor” was the likely cause of the incident, while meteorologists at said lightning is believed to have struck the plane’s path around the time of its departure. Lebanon President Michel Suleiman said there was no evidence of terrorism on the day of the crash.

The crash was the first involving Ethiopian Airlines since 1988, excluding a fatal hijacking in 1996, according to data from aviation consultant Ascend, and was the fourth fatal accident involving the new generation 737, introduced 12 years ago.