May 14, 2007

Memorial for 114 Dead in Kenya Air Crash

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenya's president joined thousands Monday at an interfaith memorial service in the Kenyan capital for 114 victims of a plane crash in Cameroon.

Relatives of nine Kenya Airways crew members lit candles in memory of their loved ones against a background of small paper flags representing 27 countries whose nationals perished in the crash.

On stage was a montage of the 27 flags circling photos of the nine crew members who died when, on May 5, a Kenya-bound Kenya Airways Boeing 737-800 nose-dived into a swamp seconds after taking off from Cameroon's commercial capital, Douala. All 114 people on board died.

The passengers included Cameroonian merchants, an American AIDS expert, businesspeople from China, India and South Africa, a Tanzanian returning from peacekeeping duties in Ivory Coast and a U.N. refugee worker from Togo. Anthony Mitchell, a Nairobi-based correspondent for The Associated Press, was among the victims.

A children's group of the Hindu Council of Kenya and three choirs from different Christian denominations sang hymns before speeches.

"A light has gone out of your life and there is darkness. We share the trauma of your pain and loss ... We will do all we can to ease the unfathomable pain," the families are undergoing, said Kenya Airways Chairman Evanson Mwaniki.

"As a nation, we are united in grief with 26 other countries whose nationals perished in the tragic plane crash," President Mwai Kibaki told those gathered. "It is often the case that following such tragic events, family members ask many questions which may not have immediate satisfactory answers ... As humans, we can only share the grief with those who have been directly affected by this calamity. It is God who is able to reach deep into their hearts and minds in order to give them courage and strength to overcome the pain."

Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious leaders all said prayers to close the service.


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