All 149 passengers and eight crew on board crashed Ethiopian Airlines are dead, Ethiopia’s state broadcaster on Sunday said.

In a statement issued by the airline, Boeing 737 plane bound for Kenya was on a routine flight from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa when it crashed on Sunday morning near the central town of Bushoftu, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital.

The communication with the flight ET-302 was lost six minutes after it took off, the statement said.

Speaking at a news conference, Tewolde Gebremariam, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ethiopian Airlines, said: “A pilot of the plane made a distress call and said he faced difficulty and wanted to return to Addis Ababa and was given clearance.”

Tewolde said the plane crashed shortly after that and the airline’s investigative team witnessed “smoke” ebbing out of the crashed plane when they reached there.

“The last time the aircraft flew was yesterday and it came from Johannesburg, South Africa,” he said.

The CEO said the crashed plane was a “brand new” which was received from the Boeing on Nov. 15, 2018.

“The cause has not yet been determined. Investigation will be made in line with international standards,” Tewolde said.

Among the victims, according to the CEO, were 32 Kenyans, 7 Britons, 8 Chinese, 9 Ethiopians, 4 Indians, 18 Canadians and 8 Americans.

He said four passengers were holding the United Nations passports.

Relatives of the passengers flocked Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to get information about their loved ones.

Fighting tears, Mary Atieno, a Nigerian woman, told Anadolu Agency: "I was expecting my husband in Nairobi. I have heard that everyone has died. I just want his body for burial, I even have no words." 

Condolence from Kenyan, Ethiopian presidents

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has sent a message of condolences to the families that have been affected by the crash.

“We are saddened by the news of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger aircraft that is reported to have crashed 6 minutes after takeoff en route to Kenya. My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenyatta said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also expressed condolences to the bereaved families.