Family's tribute to Hull probation officer who died in Ethiopian airlines crash

The devastated family of a man among 157 passengers and crew killed when an Ethiopian airlines plane crashed shortly after take off say his legacy will live on "in everything we do."

Monday, 11th March 2019, 2:55 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 5:53 pm
Joseph Waithaka who "didn't give up on people most people had given up on."

Joseph Waithaka, 55, who lived in Hull for a decade, was on his way back to Kenya from a trip to see his family and meet his two-month-old granddaughter, when the tragedy happened.

His family described him as a father figure, who loved justice and "didn't give up on people most people had given up on."

The former probation officer had moved back to his native Kenya in 2015, but would regularly visit England.

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Joseph Waithaka at a family wedding

His wife and two of his three children still live in the Hull area, and they were hoping to visit him in the summer.

His daughter Zipporah Kuria said he was a "very selfless" man, who was a father figure to her friends, and had a passion for education.

She said: "Dad taught us to make the best of everything and even in this situation my family and I are going to try and make the best of everything. (As a probation officer) he used to come home and pray for the young people he met.

"He would never mention them by name, but we would hear him pray for them.

"Friends who came round seemed to look at him as a father figure. Wherever we would go as children we were always getting compliments on our morals, values and respect and that is down to him.

"He was a very selfless man and his legacy will live on in us in everything we do, in our timekeeping, in the way we conduct ourselves in public.

"My father was someone who spoke to everyone at their level. He taught us not to treat people unfairly - he was a very just man."

Mr Waithaka worked for a contractor that administered the UN oil for food programme in Iraq, before taking various jobs in the UK as a hospital porter and stock taker and volunteering with Humbercare, before getting a job with Humberside Probation Trust, supervising people carrying out unpaid work as part of a Community Service Order.

His son Ben Kuria, 30, who lives in south London, said his father had been excited about having the family over to see him in the summer and was talking about the barbeque he would prepare for them.

He said: "It's very shocking, really surreal and I am still reminding myself this is what happened.

"Between us we've had thousands of messages and it has been really helpful to hear them.

"In Kenya we have scores of cousins and so many have personal memories of how dad helped them or supported them or coached them.

"He's someone who really loved justice, and didn't give up on people most people had given up on.

"He really just wanted the best for his kids. He was a father not just to us but to so many people in so many ways."

Six other Britons and one Irish citizen were among the dead, as were scientists, doctors, aid workers and three members of a Slovakian MP's family.

While the cause is not yet known, the crash shared similarities with last year's Lion Air jet plunging into the Java sea, killing 189. That also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashing minutes after takeoff.

All Chinese airlines were ordered to temporarily ground their Max 8 planes by the country's aviation watchdog on Monday, while a Caribbean operator suspended operations with both of its new planes.

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was "closely monitoring developments" following the incident.