‘It’s hard to imagine life without her’: Father pays tribute to selfless UN worker, 36, who was one of seven Brits among the 157 killed in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

The father of a UN animal welfare worker who died in the Ethiopian air disaster has described her as a ‘very soft and loving person’ and said: ‘It’s hard to imagine life without her’. 

Joanna Toole, 36, was one of the 157 passengers and crew who were killed when the Boeing jet crashed within minutes of take-off from Addis Ababa yesterday morning. 

Ms Toole, from Exmouth, Devon, was one of at least 12 passengers who were travelling to Nairobi for a UN environment gathering.  

Ethiopian Airlines said seven Britons, one Irishman, 18 Canadians and eight Americans were killed in the crash. 

Polar expert Sarah Auffret – a British-French dual national – and former Hull resident Joseph Waithaka were named as victims last night but it was unclear if the airline had counted them among the seven Britons. 

All 149 passengers and eight crew members died when the plane came down near the town of Bishoftu.   

Flight-tracking data showed the plane’s vertical speed had fluctuated wildly in the last seconds before the crash.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 model was the same one which crashed on a Lion Air flight in Indonesia last year, killing 189 people.   

Sarah Auffret (pictured), a French-British dual national, has been identified as a victim of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302

Sarah Auffret (pictured), a French-British dual national, has been identified as a victim of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302

Irishman Michael Ryan (pictured) who worked for the UN's World Food Programme was another of the 149 passengers killed
Kenyan-British dual national Joseph Waithaka, pictured, was killed in the crash on his way home from visiting relatives in Hull
 

Irishman Michael Ryan (pictured left), who worked for the UN’s World Food Programme, and Kenyan-British dual national Joseph Waithaka  (right) – who used to live in Hull – were also among the 149 passengers killed 

Members of the search and rescue mission look for dead bodies of passengers at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines disaster

Members of the search and rescue mission look for dead bodies of passengers at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines disaster

Paying tribute to Ms Toole, her father Adrian said she had flown around the world but added: ‘Personally I never wanted her to be on a single one of those planes’. 

He said: ‘Joanna’s work was not a job – it was her vocation. She never really wanted to do anything else but work in animal welfare since she was a child.

‘Somehow that work took her into the international sphere and for the last 15 years she has been working for international animal welfare organisations.

Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced 'with immense shock and grief' that its chief executive Jonathan Seex (pictured) was among the fatalities

Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced ‘with immense shock and grief’ that its chief executive Jonathan Seex (pictured) was among the fatalities

‘That involves a lot of travelling around the world – although personally I never wanted her to be on a single one of those planes.

‘I’m an environmental campaigner myself, so partly it was because of the damage to the environment but also because it’s a dangerous occupation to be flying. Up until now she had been lucky.

‘Joanna was a very soft and loving person. Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did. We’re still in a state of shock. 

‘Joanna was genuinely one of those people who you never heard a bad word about. She was one of those people who burned the candle at both ends.  

‘She never had any doubt that she wanted to work in animal welfare and on the international scene, that meant a lot of travel. It’s hard to imagine life without her.’

One of her UN colleagues, Manuel Barange, called her a ‘wonderful human being who loved her work with a passion’, saying he was ‘so profoundly sad and lost for words’ at the news of her death. 

According to her LinkedIn page she had worked for the UN since 2016, living in Rome where she recently set up home with her partner.  

She previously worked at World Animal Protection and Animal Defenders International, after graduating from Anglia Ruskin University in 2004 with a degree in Animal Behaviour and Wildlife Biology. 

In a blog she wrote when she worked for WAP she described herself as a keen diver, adding: ‘I’m committed to the protection of all animals, but the underwater world and the animals within it are my greatest passion.’  

Joanna Toole, one of the British victims of the Ethiopian Airlines flight
Ms Toole, pictured, worked for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation
 

Joanna Toole, pictured, was the first British victim to be named. Paying tribute her father Adrian said she was a ‘very soft and loving person’ whose work with the United Nations was ‘not a job but a vocation’ 

Ms Toole, pictured, was on her way to represent the UN's fisheries wing at the conference in Nairobi this week
Ms Toole, pictured, was one of 149 passengers killed
 

Ms Toole, pictured, was one of 149 passengers killed in the crash. Her father said it was ‘hard to imagine life without her’

Polar expert Sarah Auffret, who had French and British dual nationality, was also killed in the crash. Colleagues paid tribute to her as a ‘true friend and beloved colleague’.  

‘Words cannot describe the sorrow and despair we feel,’ her employers at the Norway-based Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators said. 

Raised in Brittany, the environmental agent was leading AECO’s efforts to cut back single-use plastics on Arctic expeditions and coordinating beach clean-ups. 

Another victim, 55-year-old Joseph Waithaka, lived in Hull for more than a decade before returning to his native Kenya in 2015. The BBC reported he had dual Kenyan and British citizenship. 

He had been visiting his wife and children, who still live in Hull, and was on his way back to Kenya via Ethiopia when he boarded the doomed flight aboard the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet.  

Mr Waithaka worked for the probation service during his time in Hull and his family said he had ‘helped so many people’ during his time in England. 

His son, Ben Kuria, said: ‘My dad was a private man but he also had a pastoral heart. He really championed people. He really helped people realise their potential.

‘He would tell stories which would inspire the young people he was helping who were not at a great time in their lives. 

Members of the search and rescue mission look for dead bodies of passengers at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash

Members of the search and rescue mission look for dead bodies of passengers at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash

Rescue workers collect bodies in bags at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines near Bishoftu following Sunday's air disaster

Rescue workers collect bodies in bags at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines near Bishoftu following Sunday’s air disaster

The graphic shows how the plane's vertical speed fluctuated in the minute before it crashed near Addis Ababa airport

The graphic shows how the plane’s vertical speed fluctuated in the minute before it crashed near Addis Ababa airport 

‘As a father he was very protective and he really wanted us to do well. He supported us and ensured we got stuck into our education. He really rooted for his children.’  

The one Irish victim was named as engineer Michael Ryan, an employee of the UN’s World Food Programme – which said seven of its staff members had died in the crash, including two Italians. 

The Rome-based aid worker and engineer, known as Mick, was from Lahinch in Co Clare in Ireland’s west and was believed to be married with two children.  

Last night UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she was ‘deeply saddened to hear of the devastating loss of life following the plane crash in Ethiopia’. 

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