CHICAGO (CBS) — A U.S. Army captain from south suburban Matteson was among the 157 people killed in a plane crash in Ethiopia on Sunday.
Antoine Lewis’ parents said he loved to travel the world, and his job with the military allowed him to do so. He had been stationed in Afghanistan, South Korea and Canada.
Lewis was on vacation in Africa, taking a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on Sunday, killing everyone on board.
Knowing he was on board that plane, Lewis’ family called him, but never got a response. On Monday, they got the news they were dreading; he was one of eight Americans killed in the crash.
“It is just hard to conceive that that particular American, who we are very proud of. I mean, he’s never been in trouble for anything. He’s always been positive,” said his father, Rodney Lewis.
His mother said she’s glad to know Antoine was out exploring Africa when he passed.
“He had told us he was excited about it. I will say that plane went down with him doing what he wanted to do most, and that was to stretch out and embrace our mother country,” Antoinette Lewis said.
The Lewis family has been neighbors with Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin for more than 20 years.
“I personally watched Captain Antoine Lewis grow from a young lad to an American hero,” the mayor said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Chalmers-Currin called the Lewises an “iconic family” in Matteson.
“Our children are lifelong personal friends who still have close ties. Captain Lewis was an outstanding person who engaged himself with many positive facets of the Matteson community,” Chalmers-Currin said in a statement. “Antoine’s death has been devastating to our residents, the village administration and moreover, his family. Captain Lewis was raised by a patriotic family that has always shared a genuine concern for their neighbors, friends and fellow man. The Village of Matteson will continue to keep the Lewis family in our hearts and prayers.”
Antoine’s parents said they will remember him as a father and a family man. He was married last year. He also leaves behind a 15-year-old son. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were in Ethiopia to help with the investigation of the crash.
One witness told the Associated Press they saw smoke coming from the back of the plane before the crash. They said the plane rotated twice in the air before hitting the ground and exploding.
It was the second crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in less than five months.
The 737 Max 8 has been flown since 2017, and the FAA said about 350 of the planes are in operation around the world.
The FAA is not grounding the 737 Max 8, but is ordering Chicago-based Boeing to begin safety-related software enhancements on those planes by next month.
Those changes have been in the works since a Lion Air 737 Max 8 plunged into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October, killing all 189 people on board.
One of the changes includes updates to the anti-stall system, which automatically points the plane’s nose down if sensors find the plane could be in danger of losing lift.