The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet to Nairobi that crashed early on Sunday with 149 passengers and eight crew members aboard “had unstable vertical speed,” Swedish flight-tracking website flightradar24 said.

Flight ET 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometres southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, the airline said, confirming the plane was a Boeing 737-800 MAX, registration number ET-AVJ.

The flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8.38 am local time, before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later at 8.44 am.

“Data from Flightradar24 ADS-B network show that vertical speed was unstable after take-off,” flightradar24 said on its Twitter feed.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines is one of the biggest carriers on the continent by fleet size. It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers in 2018.

Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off.

Meanwhile South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent his condolences. to the families of the victims.  He says the thoughts of South Africans are with the people of all the affected countries, especially those of Ethiopia and Kenya. Ramaphosa says the South African diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa and Nairobi have been directed to work with the airline and ascertain whether there were any passengers with South African passports on the plane.

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