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Germanwings plane crashes in French Alps

AFP/DPA/The Local · 24 Mar 2015, 16:42

Published: 24 Mar 2015 16:05 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Mar 2015 16:42 GMT+01:00

KEY POINTS:

  • Airline Germanwings confirmed 144 passengers and six crew aboard flight 4U9525. They believe 67 Germans were among them
  • A school in Haltern, North Rhine-Westphalia says 16 pupils and 2 teachers from school exchange class among victims
  • Germanwings hotline at 0800 11 33 55 77 FREE and Foreign Ministry hotline at 030 5000 3000
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel to travel to crash site on Wednesday, along with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
  • Two French officials have said that a black box has been found at the crash site.

19:28 Lufthansa is working on the assumption that the crash on Tuesday of an Airbus operated by its budget carrier Germanwings was an accident, the airline's vice president said.

"For the time being, we say it's an accident, anything else would be speculation," Lufthansa vice president Heike Birlenbach told reporters at Barcelona's El Prat airport from where the plane took off.

19:20 French journalist Eric Miguet has photos from the crash scene taken by emergency workers:

19:18 Germany's Foreign Ministry is flying its flags at half mast this evening:

 

19:13 An air crash expert tells DPA that "it will be a month before we know more exactly about the cause of the crash."

But he believes it is unlikely there was any problem with the maintenance of the aircraft.

"Lufthansa doesn't differentiate between the parent company's and the subsidiary's planes," Thomas Saquer of Frost and Sullivan told the news agency.

18:50 Germanwings press conference: CEO Thomas Winkelmann explains that they believe crash was an accident and promise further updates early tomorrow morning. Teams from Germanwings, Lufthansa, Lufthansa Technik, Airbus and German air accident investigators are en route to crash scene.

18:30 A press conference by Germanwings is beginning soon. 

18:28 Spain's Deputy Prime Minister declares three official days of mourning.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said in a press conference that Spain would also observe one minute of silence at 12pm on Wednesday. 
 
She said the Spanish government were participating in the investigation and all information would be made available on the government's website. 
 
"The priority is to enable a protocol to help the families of the victims," Santamaría said.
 
18:20 The German Foreign Ministry tweeted a photo of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt arriving in Marseille.

18:15 Airlive.net tweeted footage from the crash site.

18:05 The German Football Association tweeted that team members will wear black ribbons on Wednesday in memory of the victims.

18:00  CONFIRMED: Black box found

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has confirmed that a flight recorder has been found at plane crash site. 
 
Flight recorders, known colloquially as "black boxes", help investigators obtain information about the plane's logs, sensors, and even pilot conversations in the minutes before the crash. 
 
In what has already been estimated to be a huge investigation, the news suggests experts will be able to reveal exactly what went wrong much quicker than previously imagined.
 
17:50 The Associated Press reports that the French interior minister has said a black box has been found.

17:35 - Lufthansa pilots say "the labor dispute is currently no longer an issue for us," following the crash, Tagesspiegel quotes spokesman for the Vereinigung Cockpit, Jörg Handwerg as saying. Before that, the French air traffic controllers' union SNCTA had canceled an announced strike from Wednesday to Friday.

17:30 - One of plane's black boxes reportedly found

French media are quoting Christophe Castaner, deputy for Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, as saying: "One of the black boxes of the aircraft was found" though they do not know its precise content. 

17:20 The French police tweeted that a no-fly zone has been issued over the area.

17:10 Mayor of Haltern am See Bodo Klimpel spoke at a press conference about the schoolchildren from the city who were on the plane.

 

"Haltern is deeply shocked," Klimpel said. "We expect the worst."

17:00 Unconfirmed: possible survivor reported

Someone named by the Haute Provence newspaper as policeman David Galtier has said that rescuing survivors is an "urgent" priority after his team saw "a body that moved". This remains unconfirmed.
 
The president said about an hour after the crash that there was unlikely to be any survivors. 
 
Police said about an hour ago that "there's no need for rescue operations, everyone is dead." 
 
16:50 A DPA reporter wrote that the White House said officials do not believe the crash to be related to terrorism. 

 

16:40 Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Höwedes, a native of Haltern, has expressed his sadness about the schoolchildren who died in the air crash today.

 
"Everyone knows that I'm from Haltern and still have many friends and relatives there today," he wrote on Twitter.
 
"I'm unfathomably said about the horrific accident and wish all the families and loved ones the strength to get through this."
16:37 Snow could be affecting access to crash site. Ski instructor and mountain guide Mathieu Subé, who lives in the neighbouring town to Barcelonnette said that it began to snow a little before 2pm.
 
He explained to Catalan daily La Vanguardia that access to the accident site was "very difficult" and said bad weather would worsen access even more as the day went on.
 
16:34 Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt are in the air on the way to the crash site.

16:30 Local newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré has the first images from the scene of the crash:

16:09 President Joachim Gauck has cut short his visit to South America and will return to Germany rather than travel on to Uruguay from Peru.

16:07 North Rhine-Westphalia schools minister Sylvia Löhrmann tells Westdeutsche Rundfunk "we know that the school group boarded the aircraft".

15:58 French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says that a helicopter has landed at the scene of the crash and confirmed that there are no survivors.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has arrived on the scene.

15:30 Local newspaper the Halterner Zeitung learns from the town's Joseph-König Gymnasium (secondary school) that 16 pupils and two teachers were aboard the crashed plane after an exchange in Barcelona.

Some parents were still arriving at Düsseldorf airport at around 15:00 not knowing of the crash.

15:27 

15:26 Germanwings says there was no communication with the aircraft before it crashed. The plane had been in service since 1991 more or less constantly, they said.

15:16 Germanwings CEO Thomas WInkelmann confirmed at the press conference that 67 Germans were among the dead.

"We will make the nationalities of all the victims known as soon as they are beyond doubt," he said.

15:10 Germanwings is currently holding a press conference.

They confirmed that 144 passengers, including two babies, and six crew including two pilots and four flight attendants were aboard.

The plane had undergone a routine mechanical check on Monday in Düsseldorf, less than a day before its final flight. Its last major service was in summer 2013 - as called for under the manufacturer Airbus' maintenance schedule.

The pilot had more than 10 years' experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, and a total of 6,000 flight hours on the A320 model.

The plane entered a dive a minute after it reached cruising altitude of 38,000 feet and fell for eight minutes before French radar lost touch at 10:53 at around 6,000 feet.

Germanwings, Lufthansa, and Airbus technicians are on their way to the crash site to help the investigation in any way they can.

"Together with the authorities we will do everything to understand the cause of this accident as quickly and comprehensively as possible," Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said.

14:57 Germanwings has cancelled a first flight following the crash, 4U9764 from Düsseldorf to Zurich. Long lines are forming at the check-in desk.

14:55 A spokesman for the town of Haltern in North Rhine-Westphalia has confirmed that they "have to assume" some of their schoolchildren were aboard the plane to the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper.

14:46 The BBC warns that approaching snow and bad weather will make search and rescue operations difficult in the Alps on Tuesday:

14:38 Chancellor Merkel made a brief media statement on TV. She said she would travel to the crash site on Wednesday with the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia Hannelore Kraft. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt are already on their way.

"Now in this sad hour we must think about the victims and their families and friends," she said.

14:26 Images from the emergency services operation now underway in the Alps:

14:23 Some 15 of the victims were German students returning home after a student exchange trip with Catalonia’s Giola Institute, a secondary school in Linars del Vallès, a staff member confirmed to The Local.

14:13 AFP reports that two Spanish TV channels say a group of 20 German schoolchildren returning from an exchange were among the passengers on flight 4U9525.

14:12 British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond says the UK is working closely with France, Germany and Spain.

14:06 Government spokesman Steffen Seibert says Chancellor Merkel will speak at 14:30.

14:04 French President Francois Hollande said the 150 people killed in the crash included Germans, Spaniards and "probably" Turks.

He said that he could not say with "total certainty" that no French nationals were aboard the flight.

14:02 Lufthansa and Germanwings have both blacked out their logos on Twitter in mourning for the victims of the crash:

 

13:57 Düsseldorf airport has left its arrivals board entry for flight 4U9225 blank:

13:50 Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel say that he is "stunned" by news of the crash and is thinking of the victims and their loved ones.

"They need every support," he wrote on Facebook. "Completely personally and in the name of German social democracy I express my deep sorrow."

 

13:46 Chancellor Angela Merkel is "deeply shocked" by the plane crash and has spoken by phone with French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Maro Rajoy.

Germany's ambassador in France is on the way to the crash site.

Merkel has cancelled other appointments for the day and will be following news of the crash as it unfolds. She plans to make a media statement later today.

 

13:44 A police helicopter said the crash happened in a mountainous area called Les Trois Eveches, rising to 1,400 metres and very difficult to access, AFP reported.

A witness who was skiing in the area described having "heard an enormous noise", a French television channel reported.

The French civil aviation authority said the plane disappeared from radar screens after issuing the distress call over Barcelonette, about 100 km north of the resoirt of Cannes.

13:33 Germanwings has confirmed the crash via Twitter. It said that 144 passengers and 6 crew were aboard.

The airline has set up a hotline for anyone with relatives on board to get in touch.

12:59 Leading German politicians have been expressing their condolences over the tragedy. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said it was “a terrible tragedy. I'm shocked. Thinking of the victims and their loved ones.”

Meanwhile Europe Minister Michael Roth called it a “horrible tragedy”.

12:56 Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that "Our thoughts are with those who have to fear that their loved ones may be among the victims". The Foreign Ministry has opened a hotline for people affected by the crash:

12:42 French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has tweeted, saying "this morning's air drama has plunged France into deep sorrow. Compassion and solidarity with the families of all the victims."

12:34 EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulic tells reporters in Brussels: "We have no details about this accident, all we know is from media reports.

Story continues below…

"We are working with French, German and Spanish authorities including the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) to get more details."

"All I can say is that our thoughts are with those people on board and those relatives and we hope we will be able to provide information in a timely manner," Bulic says.

12:32 Shares in Airbus, the European aerospace giant, fell on news of the accident, down 1.77 percent to 58.94 euros in Paris at 1100 GMT after briefly sliding two percent.

12:27 French President Francois Hollande says there were likely "many German victims" in the crash.

Meanwhile, the French Interior Ministry says it has activated its crisis unit.

12:24 This image from Flightradar24 shows that the plane was losing height for ten minutes before the crash:

12:14 French President Francois Hollande said that no survivors are expceted from the crash, AFP reported.

"I want to express all my solidarity to the families of the victims. We will set up a psychological unit."

"I will speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel and King Felipe VI of Spain who is visiting us today," he said.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has confirmed that the wreckage has been found and emergency crews and firefighters are on their way to the scene.

 

12:02 Flight tracking website Flightradar24 has some information about the specific plane involved in the crash:

11:59 Germanwings says they "do not have any confirmed information" about the crash so far.

11:47 Flightradar24 has an image of the plane's last known position:

11:45 French radio broadcaster Europe1 reported that the plane disappeared from radar screens at around 11am.

The flight, number GWI9525, took off at 10.01am from Barcelona and was due to land in Düsseldorf at 11.49am

Regional newspaper La Provence reported that there were 142 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants on board.

French authorities told the newspaper that the flight had declared an emergency at 10:47 am while descending to 5,000 feet.

Police helicopters confirmed that an A320 had crashed close to the commune of Prads-Haute-Bleone in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.

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AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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