Germanwings Airbus A320 Crashes in French Alps

Spain France Plane CrashAirbus A320 was travelling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf with 148 passengers and crew on board; cause of crash still unknown. in a statement. It had flown 58,300 hours during 46,700 flights, and had been subjected to a final routine check on Monday.

By Jessica Camille Aguirre, dpa – Paris (dpa) – Search crews mounted helicopter expeditions to a remote and mountainous area of southern France where a German passenger plane crashed after a rapid descent, killing the 150 people on board.

The accident, one of the worst aviation disasters in German history, occurred Tuesday near the town of Prads-Haute-Bleone in the French Alps.

There 144 passengers and six crew members on Germanwings Flight 9525, which was travelling from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Local deputy Christophe Castaner, who surveyed the area with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, said on social media that that area was “a horror. The plane is totally destroyed.”

airbasFrench meteorological agency Meteo France said weather conditions in the area of the crash at the time it occurred were clear.

But Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the location and subsequent rains were posing difficulties to rescue crews and police added it could take days to recover the victims’ bodies.

Cazeneuve said a black box had been recovered from the site, and that it was handed over to investigators for analysis. Some 350 firefighters, 300 soldiers, 10 helicopters and a military plane have been deployed in the recovery efforts.

Images from the site, at an altitude of 2,000 metres, showed barely recognizable remnants of the aircraft strewn along the ridges and gullies of a mountain face.

“Unfortunately there was nothing to do,” mountain guide Jean-Louis Bietrix, who accompanied searchers, told broadcaster BFM-TV. “In the zone there is nothing to see. There bits of debris, nothing more than tiny pieces. The plane disappeared completely.”

The cause of the Airbus A320’s crash was unknown, Lufthansa said. German security officials told dpa there was no evidence of terrorism.

Officials said initial counts indicated that there were at least 67 German citizens as well as 45 Spaniards on board, as well as one Belgian.

Among those were 16 students and two teachers from Joseph Koenig High School in the western German city of Haltern, who had been on a one-week exchange programme to Barcelona.

Anticipation turned to grief at the Dusseldorf airport as friends and relatives learned of the crash, and disconsolate people gathered at the airport in Barcelona to learn the fate of their loved ones.

Flight 4U 9525 was scheduled to depart from Barcelona’s El Prat airport at 9:35 am but was delayed until 10:01 am. It was scheduled to arrive in Dusseldorf at 11:55 am.

Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the aircraft reached its regular cruising altitude of about 38,000 feet (12,000 meters) at 10:45 am (0945 GMT) but after one minute it left that height.

He said the plane went into a steep 8-minute descent before hitting the ground.

French air traffic controllers lost contact with the airline at 10:53 am at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.

The French civil aviation authority said the crew had not sent out a distress call, but that an air controller sent one after losing contact with the aircraft.

French President Francois Hollande called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to express his condolences, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he also spoke with Merkel.

“I lament, as we all do, this sad and dramatic accident,” Rajoy said during a press conference. He said he would travel to the site on Wednesday.

Merkel also said she had cancelled all her appointments and was travelling on Wednesday to the crash site.

“My thoughts and my condolences and the whole German government go out to those who have suddenly lost their lives, including many of our compatriots. The suffering of their families is immense,” Merkel told reporters, adding that the affected countries were feeling “a deep sense of grief.”

Germany’s foreign minister and transport minister were already underway. President Joachim Gauck cancelled a visit this week to South America.

German air accident investigators were headed to the scene of the accident, the worst aviation disaster in France since the July 2000 crash of a supersonic Air France Concorde jet at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.

“My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew,” Lufthansa chairman Carsten Spohr said on Twitter, calling it a “dark day.”

The pilot of the passenger jet had been with the budget airline and its parent company, Lufthansa, for 10 years, Germanwings said. He had 6,000 flying hours with Airbus aircraft.

The A320 aircraft was delivered to parent company Lufthansa in 1991, manufacturer Airbus said

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