A man with ties to South Jersey was aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight on which dozens of passengers died in a crash Sunday shortly after its departure from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for Kenya.
Matt Vecere grew up in Sea Isle City before moving to California, according to his online profiles and multiple news outlets. He worked for IQAir, an environmental technology company headquartered in Switzerland, the company said.
“IQAir is greatly saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Matt Vecere who was on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302,” the company wrote on Twitter. “Matt was a great writer and an avid surfer with a passion for helping others. Our hearts are with Matt’s family and all who lost their lives in this tragedy.”
Vecere attended Stockton from 1998 to 2002 and majored in biology, according to a university spokesperson. The school was “saddened to hear” of his death, the spokesperson said.
One of his Stockton instructors, biology professor Margaret E. Lewis, recalled her former student as kind and passionate.
“Over the years I would hear about what he was doing in South Jersey and beyond, particularly as an advocate for social and environmental justice,” she said in a statement. “Everything had seemed to come together for him as he moved into ever more active advocacy for others.”
On his website, Vecere also reflected on “working for his parents at various ranches and restaurants” in South Jersey, where he learned how to surf. While a student at Stockton, Vecere wrote, the author Mimi Schwartz was a mentor to him.
“Matt, when I knew him at Stockton College, was so full of life and creative energy. He was talented, ambitious, caring, and very committed to writing authentically with truth and voice,” Schwartz said in a statement to KYW. “I was so pleased to see him convert college writing passions into a professional career. What a loss!”
Some took to social media to reflect on their relationships with Vecere.
“Matt Vecere as I fly over New Jersey where we met 15 years ago I have learned of your passing,” one post on Twitter read. “I gaze at this sunrise and star, and I reflected that you will always be a beacon of light and freedom. Miss you brother until Valhalla, fair winds and following seas. #ET302."
The Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Nairobi was carrying 157 people when it crashed six minutes after takeoff, leaving no survivors. The victims came from 35 countries, according to the Associated Press.
Many questions about the crash remain, and some airlines and regulators are grounding the Boeing plane model at the center of the incident as officials search for answers.
“Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane,” Boeing said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team. A Boeing technical team will be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”