UPDATE: Black box recovered
13:30 a.m EDT
AP - A French Interior Ministry official says the black box has been recovered from the site in the French Alps where a plane carrying 150 people crashed.
The official, who was not authorized to speak about the crash publicly, confirmed to The Associated Press that the black box was in hand.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve earlier Tuesday said the black box had been located and would be handed to investigators in coming hours.
Officials believe all onboard were likely killed when the plane crashed on its way from Barcelona in Spain to Duesseldorf, Germany.
SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) — A Germanwings jet carrying 150 people from Barcelona to Duesseldorf slammed into a remote section of the French Alps on Tuesday, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across a rocky mountain and down its steep ravines. All aboard were assumed killed.
The pilots sent out no distress call and had lost radio contact with their control center, France’s aviation authority said, deepening the mystery over the A320’s mid-flight crash after a surprise 8-minute descent.
“The site is a picture of horror. The grief of the families and friends is immeasurable. We must now stand together. We are united in our great grief,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement after being flown over the crash scene and briefed by French authorities.
The crash left officials and families across Europe reeling in shock. Sobbing, grieving relatives at both airports were led away by airport workers and crisis counselors. One German town was rent with sorrow after losing 16 high school students coming back from an exchange program in Spain.
“This is pretty much the worst thing you can imagine,” a visibly rattled Haltern Mayor Bodo Klimpel said at a hastily called press conference.
As helicopters were deployed to reach the crash site, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged reporters not to speculate on the cause.
The plane left Barcelona at 9:55 a.m. Germanwings official Thomas Winkelmann said it began descending again shortly after it reached its cruising height of 38,000 feet following takeoff from Barcelona Airport. The descent lasted eight minutes, he told reporters in Cologne. Radar and air traffic control contact with the plane broke off at 10:53 a.m. at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.
The plane crashed in a mountainous zone in the French Alps at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,550 feet), said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the French Interior Ministry spokesman.
Winkelmann said the pilot had more than 10 years’ experience working for Germanwings and its parent airline Lufthansa. Airbus said the A320 was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991.
Germanwings said Flight 9525 carried 144 passengers, including two babies, and 6 crew members. Officials believe there were 67 German nationals on board.
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1 p.m. (1200 GMT, 8 a.m. EDT)
France’s aviation investigation bureau has released photos of the badly mangled voice data recorder from the Germanwings flight that crashed into an Alpine mountainside.
The images show the metal black box — which is actually a bright orange-red — twisted, dented and scarred by the impact of the crash.
The cockpit voice recorder was recovered on Tuesday and French officials say they are working to pull its data.
Three generations of one family — a schoolgirl, her mother and grandmother — were on the Germanwings plane that crashed, according to a town outside Barcelona.
A statement from Sant Cugat del Valles town hall didn’t provide their names.
The girl was a student of a middle school for children aged 10 to 11 at Santa Isabel school in Sant Cugat.
“The students are very affected. The teachers are trying to help them any way they can,” said a woman who answered the phone at the school. She refused to give her name or comment further.
—By Associated Press writer Jorge Sainz in Madrid.
1:50 p.m. (1250 GMT, 8:50 a.m. EDT)
U.S. President Barack Obama has called Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to express his condolences following the crash of the Germanwings plane in which at least 35 Spaniards died.
Obama conveyed “his condolences and those of the American people to Spain and to the families lost on the flight,” the U.S. Embassy in Madrid said. Obama also offered assistance from American officials.
Speaking in Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron also offered condolences on Tuesday’s crash that killed 150.
“It is heartbreaking to hear about the schoolchildren, the babies, the families whose lives have been brought to an end,” he said.
The British government believes three British nationals died, and is checking to see if there might have been more.
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2:25 p.m. (1325 GMT, 9:25 a.m. EDT)
The leaders of Germany, France and Spain are gathering in the French Alps near the site of a German budget airlines crash to pay homage to the 150 victims.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived on a helicopter Wednesday on a mountain meadow whipped by strong winds. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also joined them at the scene, in the town of Seynes-les-Alpes.
Most of the passengers on the Barcelona-Duesseldorf flight Tuesday were German and Spanish, though people of many other nationalities were also aboard.
Hollande praised all the rescue workers who have been trying to retrieve debris and bodies from the hard-to-reach site.
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2:40 p.m. (1340 GMT, 9:40 a.m. EDT)
Britain’s Foreign Office identified three British victims:
—Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio, 37, and her son Julian, 7 months.
—Paul Andrew Bramley, 28.
Lopez-Belio’s husband, Pawel Pracz of Manchester, England, said his wife and son had traveled to Spain for a family funeral.
“She bought the tickets at the last moment, and decided to return to Manchester quickly as she wanted to return to her daily routine as soon as possible,” he said.
He was with family in Manchester, and in close contact with family in Spain.
“We are devastated and would like to request that we be allowed to grieve in peace as a family without intrusion at this difficult time,” according to a Foreign Office statement issued on Pracz’s behalf.
Bramley was studying hospitality and hotel management at Ceasar Ritz College in Lucerne and about to start an internship on April 1. He was flying back to Britain via Dusseldorf to meet with his mother.
“Paul was a kind, caring and loving son,” his mother, Carol Bramley said in a statement. “He was the best son, he was my world.”
AP UPDATE: Germanwings CEO gives latest victim breakdown
Germanwings’ chief executive says the airline’s current information is that 72 Germans, 35 Spanish citizens and two Americans were on board the flight that crashed in southern France.
Thomas Winkelmann told reporters in Cologne on Wednesday that the list isn’t yet final because the company is still trying to contact relatives of 27 victims.
Winkelmann says in some cases victims’ nationality isn’t entirely clear, in part because of dual citizenship.
There were two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran and Venezuela. One victim each came from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel.
Spain’s government said they had identified 49 Spanish victims, while Britain says it believes there were at least three Britons on board.
SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) — French investigators cracked open the badly damaged black box of a German jetliner on Wednesday and sealed off the rugged Alpine crash site where 150 people died when their plane slammed into a mountain.
The cockpit voice recorder was being mined by investigators for clues into what sent the Germanwings Airbus 320 into a mid-flight dive Tuesday after pilots lost radio contact over the southern French Alps during a routine flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
Helicopters surveying the scattered debris lifted off at daybreak, and crews traveled slowly over land to the remote crash site through fresh snow and rain, threading their way to the craggy ravine. Bereaved families and the French, German and Spanish leaders were expected later Wednesday.
“The black box is damaged and must be reconstituted in the coming hours in order to be useable,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.
Key to the investigation is what happened the two minutes of 10:30 a.m. and 10:31 a.m., said Segolene Royal, a top government minister whose portfolio includes transport. From then on, air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane.
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11:39 a.m. (1039 GMT, 6:39 a.m. EDT)
A Lufthansa plane carrying 62 relatives of victims who will visit the plane crash site in the French Alps has arrived in Marseille on a flight from Barcelona.
Lufthansa says they will meet up with 14 others who decided not to fly to France and instead took an overnight bus from Barcelona provided by the airline.
The airline said the relatives will be taken together “to the closest point possible to the accident zone, taking into account the difficult access conditions.” Part of the zone is closed to everyone except crash investigators and experts removing remains of the victims.
Germanwings says 150 passengers and crew were aboard the plane that crashed Tuesday in the French Alps but it has not yet given a final list of the victims’ nationalities. The question is complicated because some passengers may have held dual citizenship. Here’s what is known so far:
— 72 Germans, confirmed by Germanwings.
— 35 Spaniards, according to Germanwings; Spain says there may be up to 50.
— 3 Argentines, confirmed by the government. Germanwings could only confirm 2 Argentines.
— 3 Americans, confirmed by the government. Germanwings could only confirm 2 Americans.
— 3 British, confirmed by the government, which says there may be more. Germanwings could only confirm 1 British.
— 3 Kazakhs, confirmed by the government
— 2 Australians, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
— 2 Colombians, confirmed by the government. Germanwings listed 1 Colombian.
— 2 Iranians, confirmed by Germanwings.
— 2 Japanese, confirmed by the government. Germanwings listed 1 Japanese.
— 2 Mexicans, confirmed by government. Germanwings listed 1 Mexican.
— 2 Venezuelans, confirmed by Germanwings.
— 1 Belgian, confirmed by Germanwings.
— 1 Dane, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
— 1 Dutch, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
— 1 Israeli, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
— 1 Moroccan, confirmed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
— 1 Turk, confirmed by the government.
PARIS (AP) — One of the pilots of the German airliner that crashed in the Alps was apparently locked out of the cockpit when the plane went down, an official with knowledge of black box audio recordings said Thursday.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the details emerged from cockpit audio recovered from the mangled black box found among the debris of the aircraft. It was unclear which pilot may have been outside.
The CEO of Lufthansa, which owns budget carrier Germanwings, has described the pilots as “experienced and trained.” The co-pilot was just 18 months out of flight school.
The Airbus A320, on a flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, inexplicably began to descend from cruising altitude after losing radio contact with ground control and slammed into a remote mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.
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1:00 p.m. (1200 GMT 8:00 a.m. EDT)
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin says passengers on the doomed Germanwings flight could be heard screaming just before the crash.
He said the co-pilot’s responses, initially courteous, became “curt” when the captain began the mid-flight briefing on the planned landing of the Germanwings flight which crashed in France, killing 150 people.
He refused to give details on the pilot’s religion or ethnic background. Prosecutor says German authorities were taking charge of the investigation of the co-pilot, whom he identified as Andreas Lubitz.
Robin refused to give details on the pilot’s religion, saying: “I don’t think it’s necessarily what we should be looking for.”
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin says pounding could be heard on the door during the final minutes as alarms sounded. He said the co-pilot “voluntarily” refused to open the door, and his breathing was normal throughout the final minutes of the flight.
He identified the pilot as a German national and who had never been flagged as a terrorist.
12:51 a.m. (1151 GMT 7:51 EDT)
French prosecutor says Germanwings co-pilot appeared to want to “destroy the plane.” Prosecutor says information was pulled from the black box cockpit voice recorder, but the co-pilot did not say a word once the captain left the cockpit. “It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” he said.
12:46 a.m. (1146 GMT 7:46 a.m. EDT)
says the co-pilot was alone at the controls of the Germanwings flight that slammed into an Alpine mountainside and “intentionally” sent the plane into the doomed descent.
Get the latest on this developing story on WTOP.com.
1:45 p.m. (1245 GMT 8:45 a.m. EDT)
Germany’s top security official says that there are “no indications of any kind of terrorist background” to the Germanwings crash, which a French prosecutor has blamed on the German co-pilot. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said German authorities checked intelligence and police databases on the day of the crash, and Lufthansa told them that regular security checks also turned up nothing untoward on the co-pilot. Tuesday’s crash in the French Alps killed 150 people.
2:39 p.m. (1339 GMT 4:39 a.m. EDT)
The chief executive of Lufthansa says he is “stunned” by a French prosecutor’s conclusion that the co-pilot of a Germanwings plane intentionally caused Tuesday’s crash which killed 150 people.
Germanwings is Lufthansa’s budget-price subsidiary.
Chief executive Carsten Spohr told a news conference in Cologne, Germany that “we choose our staff very, very carefully.” He says the airline had no indication of why the co-pilot would have crashed the plane. He said pilots undergo yearly medical examination but that doesn’t include psychological tests.
But French prosecutors now say Lubitz “intentionally” crashed Flight 9525 into the side of a mountain in France this week after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.
Lubitz began flying gliders as a teenager from a grass runway in the hills of western Germany. Members of his hometown flight club say when he came back to the club last fall to renew his gilder pilots’ license, he appeared to be happy with the job he began a year earlier.
A longtime member of the glider club says he “can’t remember anything where something wasn’t right” with Lubitz.
The club’s chairman is rejecting the conclusion that Lubitz intentionally brought down the plane.
At the house believed to be the one where his parents live, the curtains are drawn and four police cars are parked outside. Police are keeping reporters away. Neighbors refused to comment.
The airline says Lubitz trained in Germany before starting to fly for Germanwings in September of 2013. A glider club member says Lubitz also trained in Arizona. According to the airline, he had logged 630 hours of flight time before the crash.
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MONTABAUR, Germany (AP) — Andreas Lubitz never showed any sign he was anything but thrilled to have landed a job with Germanwings, according to those who taught him the trade as a teenager in this town in the woody hills of Western Germany.
On Thursday, French prosecutors said Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, “intentionally” crashed the jet into the side of a mountain.
Members of the hometown flight club in Montabaur, where he renewed his glider license only last fall, told The Associated Press the 28-year-old appeared to be happy with the job he had at the airline, a low-cost carrier in the Lufthansa Group.
After starting his job with Germanwings in September 2013, Lubitz was upbeat when he returned to the LSC Westerwald e.V glider club in the fall to renew his glider pilots’ license with 20 or so takeoffs.
“He was happy he had the job with Germanwings and he was doing well,” said longtime club member Peter Ruecker, who watched him learn to fly. “He was very happy. He gave off a good feeling.”
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SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) — A French prosecutor says only a deliberate action by the co-pilot of a doomed Germanwings plane could have kept the pilot from regaining access.
The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, is now believed to have deliberately flown the plane into a mountain, after locking the pilot out. The pilot had left, presumably to go to the lavatory. The crash killed all 150 people on board.
The Airbus A320 is designed with safeguards to allow emergency entry if a pilot inside is unresponsive. But the override code that is known to the crew does not go into effect — and indeed goes into a lockdown — if the person inside the cockpit specifically denies entry. That’s according to an Airbus training video and a pilot who has six years of experience with the jets.
In the United States, in the aftermath of 9/11, airlines are required to have two people in the cockpit at all times. If a pilot or co-pilot leaves, another crew member enters the cockpit until that person returns.
But airlines in Europe don’t have the same requirement.
The principal of Joseph Koenig High School in Haltern, Germany, which lost 16 students and two teachers in the Germanwings crash, says the state governor call him with news that the cause “was without a doubt suicide.”
Ulrich Wessel told reporters: “I gave this information to my colleagues immediately, and they were just as stunned as I was. I told them it is much, much worse than we had thought. It doesn’t make the number of dead any worse, but if it had been a technical defect then measures could have been taken so that it would never happen again.”
A French prosecutor says the co-pilot deliberately cause the crash which took 150 lives.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Americans were presumed dead in the plane crash in the southern French Alps, including a U.S. government contractor and her daughter, the State Department said Wednesday.
Identified victims were Yvonne Selke of Nokesville, Virginia, an employee for 23 years at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in Washington, and her daughter, Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia. The U.S. government did not identify the third American it said was on the plane.
Yvonne Selke performed work under contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s satellite mapping office, Booz Allen and the Defense Department confirmed in statements after the AP had reported her identity and employment.
“Every death is a tragedy, but seldom does a death affect us all so directly and unexpectedly,” NGA Director Robert Cardillo said. “All of us offer our deepest condolences and will keep her family and her colleagues in our thoughts.”
Booz Allen’s chief personnel officer, Betty Thompson, described Selke as “a wonderful co-worker and a dedicated employee who spent her career with the firm.”
Friends and co-workers of Selke’s circulated a photograph of her showing a smiling, middle-aged woman with brown hair and eyeglasses, and a photo of Emily showing a blond young woman with dark eyes and a bright smile. They described Selke as a diligent and generous worker who regularly brought cookies to co-workers.
A person who answered the phone at Selke’s home said the family was not providing any information.
Emily Selke was a “go-getter” who was interested in festival management while in school, said Xela Batchelder, a Drexel professor who taught her. Batchelder said Emily Selke participated in Fringe University, which holds courses around the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an arts festival in Scotland. She also helped put together the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.
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Leading European budget airlines Norwegian Air Shuttle and EasyJet,
along with Air Canada, say they will now require a minimum of two crew
members in the cockpit while a plane is in the air.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines revamped their policies regarding staffing in the cockpit.
According to U.S. rules, whenever the cockpit door is open, flight attendants create a barrier between the cockpit and passengers. Typically, that is done with a beverage cart but some jets are outfitted with a mesh wire barricade. If a pilot leaves to use the bathroom, one of the flight attendants takes his or her seat in the cockpit.
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AP UPDATE: Germanwings sets up family assistance center
10:25 a.m. (0925 GMT, 5:25 a.m.)
Germanwings says it is setting up a family assistance center in Marseille for relatives of the 150 people killed when one of its planes crashed in the French Alps.
Investigators believe Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the plane into a mountainside during Tuesday’s flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
Germanwings spokesman Thomas Winkelmann said in a statement that “in these dark hours our full attention belongs to the emotional support of the relatives and friends of the victims of Flight 9525.”
The airline, a subsidiary of German carrier Lufthansa, says some grieving relatives took part in a religious service Thursday afternoon near the crash site.
BERLIN (AP) — Police have searched the homes of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in two German cities in search of an explanation for why he may have crashed a passenger plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
German tabloid Bild reported Friday that Lubitz had a “serious depressive episode” six years ago and that a medical problem was noted in aviation records.
The Federal Aviation Office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
French investigators believe the 27-year-old locked himself inside the cockpit and then intentionally smashed the Germanwings plane into a mountainside.
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s transport minister says a recommendation will be sent Friday to all airlines with a base in the Scandinavian country to have two people in the cockpit when in the air.
Airlines and officials around the world are starting to impose the rule after details emerged that the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 had apparently locked himself in the cockpit and deliberated crashed the plane into the mountains below.
Transport Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a live television interview with the TV2 channel that the Danish Transport Authority also would review all physical and mental tests of pilots flying to and from Denmark. German news media have depicted co-pilot Andreas Lubitz as a man with a history of depression who had received psychological treatment.
12:45 p.m. (1145 GMT, 7:45 a.m. EDT)
German prosecutors say they have found evidence that the co-pilot of the Germanwings plan which crashed in the French Alps appears to have hidden evidence of an illness from his employers.
Prosecutors in the western city of Duesseldorf say they seized medical documents from the home of Andreas Lubitz that indicate “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment.”
Prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrueck said in a statement Friday that torn-up sick notes for the day of the crash “support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues.”
He said the search of Lubitz’s home revealed no suicide note or evidence of any political or religious motivation for his actions.
PARIS (AP) — France’s leading pilots union said Friday it is filing a lawsuit over leaks about the investigation into the crash of a German jet into the French Alps.
Pilots around Europe are angry that information about the final moments of the flight was reported in the media before prosecutors and others were informed. Pilots are concerned that the circumstances of Tuesday’s crash will damage public trust.
After leaks in the media about the crash, a prosecutor announced that cockpit recordings indicate the co-pilot of the Germanwings A320 jet intentionally flew the plane into a mountain. All 150 aboard were killed.
Guillaume Schmid of France’s SNPL union told The Associated Press on Friday that the lawsuit is over violating a French law on keeping information about investigations secret while they are ongoing. The lawsuit doesn’t name an alleged perpetrator, a method in French law that leaves investigators to determine who is at fault.
“We can understand there is a certain pressure, a wish to know,” Schmid said — but he warned that leaking information too early can mislead the public instead of informing accurately.
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