Nine-month-old baby among Canadian victims in Ethiopian crash

A high school teacher with a passion for helping the vulnerable and an infant en route to meet her grandfather in Kenya for the first time were the latest Canadians confirmed as victims of a devastating plane crash in Ethiopia.

The grieving families of the 18 Canadians who died when the Ethiopian Airlines jetliner went down on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board, were still struggling to come to terms with what happened.

Quindos Karanja said he had been looking forward to meeting his nine-month-old granddaughter Rubi Pauls — believed to be the youngest Canadian victim — when he learned of the tragedy, which also claimed the lives of his wife, daughter and two other grandchildren.

“It’s just hard to accept that this has happened,” he said in a telephone interview from Kenya on Tuesday. “I feel so much loss. And pain. I’m lonely.”

Rubi was the only Canadian citizen in the family. Her 34-year-old mother, a Kenyan who had applied to be a permanent resident of Canada, had told Karanja of a sense of fear she felt ahead of the trip.

“She didn’t know why she had that bad feeling that was my final talk with her,” he said, adding that his daughter Carolyne Karanja was the breadwinner of the family and his wife had travelled to Canada for a visit and was returning home.

Shock was also settling in for a Hamilton-area family, who confirmed Tuesday that a special education teacher who often volunteered with underprivileged children was among those killed in the crash.

Cody French said his mother, Dawn Tanner, was on her way to visit friends in Kenya. He said Tanner, who worked as department head of special education at a school with the Grand Erie District School Board, had previously done community work in small villages to help “homeless and vulnerable children.”

“Mom, I can’t begin to explain how much I miss you and how different life will be without your beautiful laugh and your tight hugs,” French wrote in a Facebook post also penned on behalf of his brother. “I just want you to know that both Hunter and I are so proud of you, for helping out the vulnerable and for pursuing your dreams.”

Responses to French’s Facebook post indicate Tanner volunteered with a literacy program for young inmates as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The Grand Erie board said Tanner had worked at Hagersville Secondary School starting in 2005.

It said she also volunteered a couple of nights a week at a homework support centre for Indigenous students. She also taught at a school in an Indigenous community before joining the Grand Erie board, the statement said.

“She had aspirations of becoming an administrator and was currently taking her Principal Qualifications Course,” it said.

Many of the other Canadian victims came from the ranks of humanitarian and aid workers. They included a number of youth travelling to a United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

Micah Messent, Danielle Moore and Angela Rehhorn were all slated to attend the conference through various humanitarian or conservation organizations.

Former Edmonton resident Darcy Belanger — a founding member of not-for-profit conservation group and its director of strategic initiatives — was also planning to attend the same conference.

Other victims included Stephanie Lacroix, who was working with the United Nations Association in Canada, and career aid worker Jessica Hyba who was employed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Meanwhile, a Brampton, Ont., family was mourning multiple members who had been on their way to embark on a safari in Kenya.

The family included 13-year-old Anushka Dixit, her 14-year-old sister Ashka, their mother, 37-year-old Kosha Vaidya, father 45-year-old Prerit Dixit, and grandparents 71-year-old Pannagesh Vaidya and 63-year-old Hansini Vaidya. It wasn’t immediately clear if the grandparents were Canadian citizens.

Forestry advocate Peter deMarsh of New Brunswick, Carleton University literature Professor Pius Adesanmi, Calgary accountant Derick Lwugi, and Edmonton mother and daughter Amina Ibrahim Odowaa and Sofia Faisal Abdulkadir were also killed in the crash.

The tragedy was also stoking fears among would-be travellers around the world who expressed concerns about the type of aircraft involved in the crash. The Boeing 737 Max 8, a commonly used aircraft currently forming part of the fleets of three Canadian airlines, was also involved in another deadly crash last year that killed 189 people in Indonesia.

The 737 Max 8 continues to fly in North American skies, but faces grounding orders or airspace bans from all of Europe as well as Australia, China and other countries in the wake of Sunday’s crash.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Tuesday that he had no plans to order Canada’s planes out of the skies, but that “all options are on the table”.