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Family mourns three generations who perished in Ethiopian Airlines crash

admin 11 Mar 13
Details emerge about victims of Ethiopian Airlines crash

Nakuru, Kenya (CNN)A few days before Caroline Karanja boarded the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight to Kenya that crashed on Sunday, she sent a message to her sister saying she had an uneasy feeling.

"My heart isn't really excited. I feel like there's something bad ahead, but I don't know what," the WhatsApp message read.

Kelly Karanja told her older sibling to pray about it and asked her when the family would arrive in Kenya.

"10th. Will let you know the time," Caroline -- who is also known as Carol -- responded.

Karanja was so worried about the trip that she sent similar messages to her father, John Quindos Karanja, and her friend Florence Brown, they said.

The Canadian resident's premonition sadly came to pass, and Karanja was among the 157 passengers and crew killed when the plane crashed just minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. 

Also on the flight was her mother, Ann Wangui Karanja, and Caroline's three children: Ryan Njoroge, 7, Kellie Pauls, 4, and 9-month-old daughter Rubi.

Ontario-based Karanja was taking Rubi home for the first time to meet her Kenyan family.

Kelly Karanja said Caroline was deeply connected to situations and always knew how to read things.

"She was always the telepathic one," Kelly said. "She was also jovial, funny, selfless, the one who brought the family together. We are not able to put into words the kind of woman she was. She was just awesome," Karanja told CNN.

Grieving familiy members include, from left, Kelvin Karanja, Kelly Karanja, John Quindos Karanja and Quindos Mwangi Karanja.

The day she boarded her flight, Caroline texted her father and again expressed her fear for the impending journey.

John Quindos said: "The day before the flight my daughter sent me a message -- and she told me I'm not excited. 'I don't know what is happening dad. I am fearing and I don't know what it is in me,' She had fears. So I thought that was normal. We never interacted again."

Ryan, her eldest son, was very close with his grandfather, whom he called "Guju." They would speak every day via video call, John Quindos said.

A few days before they flew out, Ryan spoke to his grandfather and told him "I am going to borrow some money from my dad and buy you a present," Kelly Karanja, who lives in Kenya, told CNN.

Before relocating to Hamilton, Ontario, in May 2017, Karanja split her time between Boston and Kenya. The accountant also lived in Bermuda, where her husband Paul Njoroge works. Njoroge was unable to join the family on the homecoming trip.

John Quindos Karanja lost three generations of his family.

Karanja's friends painted a picture of a doting mom, who juggled a hectic work schedule as an accountant at an energy firm in Canada.

"She enjoyed cooking for them, breakfast, lunch, dinner. She was a true homemaker," said Florence Brown, her friend of six years. "It took a while for me to convince her that it was OK to give her kids some KFC, some TV dinners, especially when she was overwhelmed  and busy."

Brown shared Karanja's last post on Facebook a day before she boarded the flight. She asked her friends for tips on what kinds of food to give Rubi on the flight.

"She is so fussy when hungry and nursing her isn't enough 'cos she is a big girl now. She eats more than my four-year-old; what can I carry for her?" Karanja asked her friends.

The day after they got the news, the grandfather turned to his son Quindos and said: "I wonder what Ryan was bringing for me?"

Back home in Kenya, a devastated family is trying to come to terms with the loss of three generations.

The Karanja home is in a small village outside the city of Nakuru, northwest of Nairobi, in the Great Rift Valley.

The family compound comprises a few buildings hidden behind a bright blue gate.

Visitors have not stopped trooping into the home to pay their respects since news of the crash. More than 100 people have visited each day since Sunday.

A group of women make huge pots of tea for the visitors as they sit and reminisce and pay their condolences.

They are part of a local group mentored by Ann, the matriarch of the family and a former primary school teacher, who was also killed on the flight.

"We'll never get another person like her -- she's left a gap that no one can fill. She was so generous to us. We have to be generous to honor her," said Monica Magiri, a neighbor.

As questions are asked about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and airlines around the world are grounding the aircraft, Karanja's brother says he has no interest in pointing the blame for his sister's and her family's death.

Quindos Mwangi Karanja told CNN: "If you look at having to point blame on others, I think it will make the healing process a bit more hard for us," he said.

"I might not know exactly whether to blame the plane but let the experts finish their investigations, and then they are able to tell us the way forward."

CNN's Farai Sevenzo and Briana Duggan reported from Kenya and Faith Karimi reported and wrote in Atlanta. Stephanie Busari contributed to this report.