The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed killing 157 people was making a strange rattling noise and trailed smoke and debris as it swerved above a field of panicked cows before hitting earth, according to witnesses.
Flight 302 took off from the Ethiopian capital on Sunday morning bound for Nairobi with passengers from more than 30 countries. All on board the Boeing 737 MAX 8 died.
The pilot had requested permission to return, saying he was having problems – but it was too late.
Half a dozen witnesses interviewed by Reuters in the farmland where the plane came down reported smoke billowing out behind, while four of them also described a loud sound.
“It was a loud rattling sound. Like straining and shaking metal,” said Turn Buzuna, a 26-year-old housewife and farmer who lives about 300 meters (328 yards) from the crash site.
“Everyone says they have never heard that kind of sound from a plane and they are under a flight path,” she added.
Malka Galato, 47, a barley and wheat farmer whose field the plane crashed in, also described smoke and sparks from the back. “The plane was very close to the ground and it made a turn… Cows that were grazing in the fields ran in panic,” he said.
Tamirat Abera, 25, was walking past the field at the time. He said the plane turned sharply, trailing white smoke and item