• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
One year since the Alps plane crash
Families mourn Germanwings crash victims in French Alps
Candles at a school memorial in Haltern am See, North Rhine-Westphalia, which lost 16 pupils and two teachers. Photo: DPA

Families mourn Germanwings crash victims in French Alps

AFP/The Local · 24 Mar 2016, 10:10

Published: 24 Mar 2016 08:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Mar 2016 10:10 GMT+01:00

After a ceremony in the village of Le Vernet, about 80 of them will make a grueling pilgrimage to the crash site at an altitude of some 1,500 metres (4,900 feet).

Aided by volunteer firefighters and mountain guides, they will walk a muddy, snow-covered mountain path, much of it carved out to allow emergency workers to access the site.

A red stake planted in the soil marks the exact site where the plane went down, killing all 150 people on board.

The ill-fated plane took off from Barcelona and was headed to Dusseldorf in Germany when German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, drove it into the ground on March 24, 2015.

On Wednesday a young German woman had already made a six-hour journey to the site.

Her daughter was one of a group of high school students who were killed in the crash.

"At first, I didn not think I would ever fly again," she said, asking not to be named.

Meanwhile, by Thursday morning people had already begun laying candles in front of a memorial at the secondary school in Haltern am See, North Rhine-Westphalia, which lost 16 pupils and two teachers in the deadly crash. 

Questions over pilot mental health checks

Investigations found that Lubitz had a history of depression and suicidal tendencies and the case has raised questions about medical checks faced by pilots as well as doctor-patient confidentiality.

Lubitz was allowed to continue flying despite having been seen by doctors dozens of times in the years preceding the crash.

After the tragedy, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommended that airlines ensure at least two crew members, including at least one qualified pilot, are in the flight crew compartment at all times.

Top managers of Lufthansa - the parent company of the lowcost Germanwings airline - arrived in Le Vernet to take part in the commemoration ceremony.

The company - which has denied any wrongdoing - is facing a lawsuit in the United States from family members who argue Lubitz should not have been allowed to fly.

"We are here today to show our respect to the victims and show that we support them," said Lufthansa chairman Carsten Spohr.

"Today is not the day to talk about legal issues, today we are just here, with 100 Lufthansa employees, to help the families and support them in their grief."

The ceremony will begin with the reading of the names of the 149 victims in front of a headstone erected in their memory, with a minute of silence at 0941 GMT, the exact time of the crash.

A wreath will also be laid at the Vernet cemetery where the remains of unidentified body parts were buried.

No government officials will take part in what is expected to be completely private memorial.

"The families do not wish for their pain to be filmed," said local French official Bernard Guerin.

The pilot's family will not be present.

Plans to take relatives to visit the crash site by minibus were called off because bad weather has made the forest road leading to it impassable.

Vigils held in Düsseldorf and Barcelona

The private ceremony comes after anniversary vigils were held in Spain and Germany, home to most of those killed in the crash.

Ceremonies were held at the airports in Barcelona from where the ill-fated plane took off on March 24, 2015, and in Düsseldorf, its intended destination in western Germany.

Plaques in memory of those killed when the airline went down in the French Alps were unveiled at both airports.

At Düsseldorf airport's main terminal, family members of the 72 German victims gathered in a "quiet room" which had been dedicated to the memory of 17 people killed in a fire at the airport in 1996.

Dozens of relatives of the 50 Spanish victims, many dressed in black, attended the ceremony outside of Barcelona's Terminal 2 on the eve of the tragedy's first anniversary.

They were joined by emergency services workers who took part in the rescue operation as well as top officials including Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Flags flew at half mast and 149 candles were lit in memory of the passengers and crew who were kiled.

SEE ALSO: Students travel to Spain one year after Germanwings crash

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,546
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd