Ottawa professor's death in Ethiopian Airlines crash 'crippling loss' to university

An Ottawa professor is one of the 18 Canadians who died after an Ethiopian Airlines jet bound for Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday morning, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members on board.

Pius Adesanmi was in plane crash that killed 157 on Sunday

Carleton University professor Pius Adesanmi died after an Ethiopian Airlines jet bound for Nairobi crashed on Sunday. (Facebook )

An Ottawa professor was among 18 Canadians who died after an Ethiopian Airlines jet, bound for Nairobi, crashed Sunday morning, killing all 157 passengers and eight crew members on board. 

Pius Adesanmi, the director of Carleton University's Institute of African Studies and a professor at the school, was on the plane when it crashed shortly after takeoff near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometres southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

Carleton University said in a statement that Global Affairs Canada confirmed the Nigerian-born academic was among the victims travelling on the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

"He worked tirelessly to build the Institute of African Studies, to share his boundless passion for African literature and to connect with and support students," said Pauline Rankin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University.

"He was a scholar and teacher of the highest calibre who leaves a deep imprint on Carleton."

Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president and vice-chancellor of Carleton University, said the university is in shock. 

"He really was a global thinker ... a lot of people found strength in the work that he was doing," said Bacon.

"There's no question that his passing, his sudden death is a crippling loss for the Institute [and] for Carleton." 

Bacon said Adesanmi wasn't afraid to fight for what he believed in.

"He was on the ground doing things, making the world better and he inspired a lot of people in our community and internationally."

'One of our most brilliant minds'

The flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time, before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later.

The victims were from more than 30 countries and included 18 Canadians, authorities said.

Students, friends and those who followed and admired Adesanmi's work expressed their grief and loss on social media.

He was a renowned scholar, but was also humble and grounded, said Andriata Chironda, a PhD candidate at Carleton University. She remembered when Adesanmi was one of only three people who attended a speaking event she held  during a snowstorm four years ago.

"He took time to come and listen ... and that, to me, meant a lot," she said.

"That's the kind of person who he was. He was present and visible and involved in anything that related to African studies at Carleton and elsewhere."

Carleton professor Aboubakar Sanogo described him as a "serious intellectual" who was "kind and outgoing."

"He's a fantastic colleague, one of our most brilliant minds," Sanogo said, just hours before the death was confirmed Sunday afternoon.

"We are really happy and proud to have him as the head of the institute." 

With files from Kimberley Molina