The crash has led to questions about Boeing's new 737 MAX 8 jet, which was also involved in the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people last October.
The 157 people killed were from 35 countries, and 18 of them were Canadian.
An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft arriving from Toronto prepares to land at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, British Columbia on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
GebreMariam said a recorded conversation with air traffic control detailed final moments of the flight.
Multiple nations, including the European Union, have suspended the 737 MAX, leading to the grounding of about two-thirds of the 371 jets of that make in operation around the world, according to Reuters calculations.
While Tewolde of Ethiopian Airlines said the cause of the crash was not yet clear, he cast doubt on the airworthiness of the 737 Max.
Debris at the scene of the plane crash in Ethiopia
"He asked to return back to base and he was given clearance...that was at 8:44 am, the same time the aeroplane disappeared from the radar", he said. "In fact he was allowed to turn back", he said.
More than a dozen relatives of those who perished paid respects on Wednesday at the rural crash site where Flight ET 302 came down in a fireball.
Only charred fragments of victims remain, meaning it will take weeks to identify all of them using dental or DNA testing.
The ill-fated flight was packed with humanitarian workers and worldwide experts, many of whom were bound for a major United Nations environmental summit in the Kenyan capital.
One elderly couple collapsed into each other's arms after strewing flowers in front of a picture of a smiling young woman, while a family propped each other up, tears coursing down their faces.
A Greek man would have been the 150th passenger on the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing plane that crashed killing all on board, except he arrived two minutes late for the flight.
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