'I am not planning to heal': A crash leaves suspended grief


GITHUNGURI, Kenya (AP) — The Rev. George Kageche Mukua was coming home. The Catholic priest had last seen his Kenyan family a year ago, when he boarded a plane for Europe.

His return ended in a thunderous impact in a rural field as Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 faltered shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa and crashed. It struck so hard that the plane appeared to slip right into the ground.

Mukua was one of 32 Kenyans killed, a numbingly high toll on a flight carrying people from 35 countries. No nation lost more.

Like many families now grieving, Mukua’s relatives find themselves at a loss in more ways than one. They say they have heard almost nothing from authorities.

They and others around the world are in a state of suspended grief.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Labeled 'Delusional'; 'Irritated' About Not Being Wealthier than Other UK Celebs: Book

Funeral arrangements for the 40-year-old priest are on hold, Mukua’s sister, Goreti Kimani, told The Associated Press.

“There has been no family outreach by any agency involved in counselling,” she said, making it even harder for the family to cope.

Unlike neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya’s government has not ordered any flags to fly at half-staff or declared a national day of mourning. Apart from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message of condolences to relatives, there has been no government initiative to pay tribute to the dead.

Public shock and sadness soon faded away. With unnatural deaths frequently making headlines in Kenya, from extremist attacks to ghastly road crashes to natural disasters, some people seem to have become immune to mass deaths and are not moved.

While waiting for closure, Mukua’s family fills the time talking longingly of a man who was the peacemaker amid the often-fractious relationships that plague polygamous homes like theirs.

“Father did not know boundaries,” Kimani said. “We are losing a friend, you know, a person who is not bothered about barriers. He will be reaching out to you, and he was our symbol of unity.”

His loss is especially painful as two other brothers were killed in road crashes in the last three years.

“Personally, I am not planning to heal,” Kimani said with a deep sigh, resigned. “I am just planning to move on.”

But she couldn’t help but ask: “There are so many other flights … Why that one?”

City Hit with Lawsuit for Allowing Non-Citizens to Vote in Elections

Mukua had been returning home for his annual leave. He was posted to Rome for missionary work last year, much to his family’s delight. Like many Kenyans with a loved one abroad, they had hoped the foreign posting would bring opportunities for siblings and other relatives.

Even before Europe, Mukua had been one for journeys.

While the family remained in their village of tea farms not far outside Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, he left for South Africa and spent 10 years training to become a priest. He returned home and was ordained.

He was hardly a year and few months into the priesthood, said the Rev. Father Michael Wa Mugi, who worked with Mukua in his hometown of Githunguri.

“We really loved his kind words during the homilies,” Wa Mugi said of his friend. “Father was good, down-to-earth humble, a priest who welcomed all.”

George Mukua, a cousin, said he was having problems accepting his death. When a relative called this week asking if he had the latest news about the priest, his hopes quickly rose that he had been found alive.

“I kept on expecting he would tell me he had been found in a hotel or something,” George Mukua said.

Instead, the wait continues for the family, and for others who have made the journey to the crash site in Ethiopia or stayed home in mourning.

No one seems to know how long it will take to identify whatever is found of the victims’ remains.

On Friday, families and others said the work had finally begun. Some swiped their mouths and handed over DNA for the forensic work that many hope will be the key to end their wait.


Follow Africa news at

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City