Ethiopian Airlines 787 Exorcised By Voodoo Priest On Togo Layover

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was given an exorcism by Voodoo priests after it was struck by lightning. The plane was reportedly hit by lightning just before touching down at Lomé-Tokoin International Airport in Togo on June 20th.

Ethiopian 787
Voodoo priests carried out an exorcism after an Ethiopian Airlines 787 was struck by lightning. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Voodoo priests were called in to “conduct a purification ceremony” to exorcise the plane from any evil spirits. Engineers also carried out the necessary repairs as the jet incurred slight damage after the lightning strike.

Lightning strike leads to Voodoo priest exorcism

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET508 from Addis Ababa to Lomé on June 20th was on its final approach when it was struck by lightning. The plane reportedly received minor damage and was unable to operate the next leg of its journey to New York JFK Airport.

In response, Voodoo priests of the Hiébiésso divinity offered to exorcise the plane, with the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) accepting their offer. The priests carried out a purification ceremony, which consisted of “splashing the plane with water and pouring liquor as an offering to appease the anger of Hiébiésso, the divinity of thunder.”

Colonel Latta Gnama, director-general of the ANAC, attended the ceremony personally. He said the agency did everything it could to help the Voodoo priests to “make their job easier,” adding that authorities and airport management could not refuse the request.

Additionally, Gnama confirmed that technicians had made the necessary repairs to the plane, which is said to have received minor damage from the lightning strike.

Ethiopian Airlines B787
The plane was reportedly struck on its final approach to Lomé-Tokoin International Airport. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Togbé Assiobo Nyagblondjor III, president of Togo’s traditional priest’s confederation, said,

“When lightning strikes somewhere, it is our duty, for the safety of people, to identify and purify the place where it struck.” 

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Purifying the plane from evil spirits

The Voodoo (or Vodun) religion is believed to have around 50 million adherents worldwide and has its origins in West Africa. In Togo, Voodoo is said to be the largest indigenous religion, with around 2.5 million Togolese followers. Although Togo is officially a secular state, Voodoo is widely followed and respected across the country.

Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane presented at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport
The aircraft was still grounded several days after the incident. Photo: Getty Images

Nyagblondjor III explained the purpose of the ceremony,

“Praying to appease the god Hiébiésso, because lightning indicates that he is angry. We pour liquor, as an offering, and we sprinkle the place with water, invoking the spirits.”

Nyagblondjor III added,

“If the plane hadn’t been purified, everyone who used it could even be paralyzed! Now that this is done, the plane, the passengers and the company will no longer have any problems!”

How dangerous are lightning strikes?

Lightning strikes are a surprisingly common occurrence but usually represent no threat to an aircraft. Fuselages act as a Faraday cage that protects the interior from lightning strikes. After a lightning strike, planes are required to undergo inspection but usually take little-to-no damage at all.

Prof. John Hansman, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, said,

“Standard commercial airplanes are designed to take lightning strikes.”

Ethiopian 787
Authorities and airport management fully endorsed the purification ceremony. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia

Authorities in Togo also took more conventional measures to protect planes from lightning strikes, adding lightning rods around the airport. Lightning can still cause serious damage at airports, as seen in this video in Sao Paulo earlier this year.

Colonel Latta Gnama said,

“We have installed lightning rods everywhere that saved the airport installations and the aircraft, which could burn down completely.”

Have you ever heard of any interesting stories like this? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.