Toronto’s Kenyan community ‘feeling devastated’ after news of Ethiopian Airlines crash

WATCH ABOVE: Church-goers grieved over the loss of members of their Kenyan community Sunday – after word spread that multiple Canadians and Kenyans were on board the downed Ethiopian Airlines flight. Kamil Karamali reports.

Toronto’s Kenyan community is reacting to the tragic news of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 on board, including 18 Canadians, on Sunday.

An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after takeoff, killing everyone on board. Eighteen Canadians are among the dead, according to the airline’s CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, and Kenya’s transportation minister.

A professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University was the first Canadian victim to be identified.

READ MORE: Ethiopian Airlines crash kills all 157 on board, including 18 Canadians

Many Kenyans and Kenyan-Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area were impacted by the news as they await official information about those killed in the crash.

Apondi Odhiambo, a secretary for the Kenyan Community of Ontario, spoke to Global News about how members of the community are feeling about the news.

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She said some community members are already finding out about family members who have been impacted.

“We just need the support because there’s a lot of trauma, there’s a lot of triggers,” Odhiambo said. “And as a Kenyan community and African community, one thing that really binds us together is this period of unity and community.”

READ MORE: Ethiopian Airlines crash victims hail from 35 countries, include doctors and aid workers

Odhiambo said she’s aware of two individuals who are among the 18 Canadians killed. She said she received a call this morning from one of the families of the deceased, who said they are devastated.

“Most Kenyans from Canada use Ethiopian Airlines,” she said. “It’s very economical, and also the connection is fair.”

Matthew Njenga, another community member who was attending a service at the Kenyan Global Church, said he’s in disbelief since he frequently travels the same route himself.

“It was very sad news because I fly Ethiopian [Airlines] quite often,” he said. “I just arrived [from the airline] to Toronto on Friday morning.”

Njenga said that in the past six months, he’s travelled on that exact flight four times already. He said he often travels to Nairobi with his family.

He explains that the number of Canadians involved is expected since the flight path is one most Kenyans choose when travelling from Canada. Njenga adds that the Ethiopian Airlines route features an “exceptionally good” aircraft and the layover is more reasonable than travelling on routes offered by European airlines.

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“When something like this happens, given the number of people involved, it’s quite tragic,” Njenga added.

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As the community begins to grieve, Odhiambo said she hopes the local Kenyan community will receive support from Canadians and the government during this difficult time because it lacks resources.

“[We’re] hoping to have a vigil, a community get-together and support so we’re able to console each other,” she said.

The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

With files from Kamil Karamali and Reuters

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