SA father of plane crash victim: 'Please, God, don't let it be him'

Max Thabiso Edkins, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.
Max Thabiso Edkins, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.
Image: Facebook/Max Thabiso Edkins

The first thought that went through Don Edkins' mind when he heard his son Max might be on the Ethiopian Airlines flight which crashed on Sunday was: "Please, God, don't let it be him."

Don first heard about the flight crashing soon after takeoff from Addis Ababa on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, via media reports.

Then the German embassy in Addis Ababa confirmed that Max was one of the 157 people who perished.

"Being 35, he was part of this new generation who have to change the world otherwise he won't have a world to live in and he was dedicated to that," he said, speaking from Cape Town on Tuesday.

Max held dual German-SA nationality and had worked as a climate communications expert for the World Bank's Connect4Climate programme since January 2013.

Don said he was the "best of all of us".

"He was there, always, in the most important places, giving out the message that the environment and climate is where we have to do something for the future of our children and I think he would want that to be known for his children and for everybody else's children."

Don added: "He put his heart into everything. That's why it's so hard to lose him, because he had such a bright future because of how many people he was able to take along with him."

Max was a global citizen who grew up in Lesotho and lived in SA, Germany, the US and Sweden.

Don said Max enjoyed surfing when he visited SA, horse-riding and loved movies, owning a mobile cinema which Don operated in Lesotho.

"He had an intense curiosity growing up."

Max completed his undergraduate studies in natural science, conservation biology and economics at the University of Cape Town before completing an MSc in environmental change and management at the University of Oxford where he met his wife Astrid.

They lived in Washington in the US before moving to Stockholm, Sweden, where Astrid worked for the Swedish government. They have a three-year-old son and were expecting their second child in June.

The World Bank said in a statement on Monday: "On March 10, we lost a dear friend and the world lost a true climate leader."

Max was en route to a week-long conference convened by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) in Kenya from Monday.

World Bank interim president Kristalina Georgieva said: "Max was deeply committed to the fight against climate change and brought tremendous creativity, energy and passion to his work. Our deepest sympathies go to his family and loved ones, and to those of the other victims of this tragedy."

Edkins had worked as a marine biologist and ecologist in southern and eastern Africa and as a renewable energy specialist advising on climate change and energy policies in SA.