An Airbus operated by Lufthansa’s Germanwings budget airline crashed into a mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday (24th March), killing all 150 people on board including 16 schoolchildren.
Germanwings confirmed its Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf went down with 144 passengers and 6 crew on board.
According to Mashable, Germanwings officials initially said Flight 4U 9525 sent a distress signal about an hour after takeoff before crashing into a mountainous zone at an altitude of about 6,550 feet. The descent from 38,000 feet lasted nearly 8 minutes.
However, France’s aviation authority reported that the plane never sent a signal, and officials lost radio contact with the flight. The plane went down in mid-flight – an uncommon occurrence as the majority of plane crashes happen during takeoff or landing.
Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said during a press conference:
We cannot say at this point and time why our colleague decided to lower the plane as swiftly as he did. We don’t have any information about why he brought the plane down so quickly to a lower height.
Winkelmann also said the Airbus A320 had been in use since 1991 (24 years old), and the last routine check on the aircraft was carried out on 23rd March, just a day before the crash. The CEO added that “there is absolutely no issue” with the age of the plane.
One of the plane’s black box recorders has been found at the crash site, about 100 km (65 miles) north of the Riviera city of Nice, and will be examined immediately, France’s interior minister said.
In Washington, the White House said the crash did not appear to have been caused by a terrorist attack, while Lufthansa said it was working on the assumption that the tragedy had been an accident, adding that any other theory would be speculation. Aerial photographs showed smouldering wreckage and a piece of the fuselage with six windows strewn across the steep mountainside cut by ravines.
Images from the crash site show small pieces of the plane scattered throughout the mountainside, suggesting a violent impact — and significantly decreasing the likelihood of any survivors.
“Appalling images in this mountain landscape,” said Christopher Castaner, deputy mayor of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, near where the plane crashed. “There is nothing left but debris and bodies.”
“We saw an aircraft that had literally been ripped apart, the bodies are in a state of destruction, there is not one intact piece of wing or fuselage,” Brice Robin, prosecutor for the city of Marseille, told Reuters after flying over the wreckage in a helicopter.
67 Germans were believed to have been on the flight. Spain’s deputy prime minister said 45 passengers had Spanish names. One Belgian was also aboard. Also among the victims were 16 children and 2 teachers from the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium high school in the town of Haltern am See in northwest Germany, a spokeswoman said.
Barcelona’s Liceu opera house said on Twitter that 2 singers, Kazakhstan-born Oleg Bryjak and German Maria Radner, had died while returning to Duesseldorf after they had performed in Wagner’s Siegfried at the theatre:
— Gran Teatre Liceu (@Liceu_cat) March 24, 2015
Translation: Liceu Barcelona Opera House deeply mourns the death of Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner in #GermanWingsCrash (1/2)
French police at the crash site about 2,000 metres (6,000 feet) above sea level said no one had survived and it would take days to recover the bodies due to difficult terrain, snow and incoming storms.
Police said search teams would stay overnight at altitude. “We are still searching. It’s unlikely any bodies will be airlifted until Wednesday,” regional police chief David Galtier told Reuters. In Paris, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament, “A helicopter managed to land (by the crash site) and has confirmed that unfortunately there were no survivors.”
It was the first crash of a large passenger jet on French soil since the Concorde disaster just outside Paris nearly 15 years ago. The A320 is a workhorse of aviation fleets and one of the world’s most used passenger jets. It has a good safety record.
However, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network, Tuesday’s crash was the third most deadly involving an A320. In 2007, a TAM Linhas Aereas A320 shot off a runway in Brazil, killing 187 people, while 162 people died when an Indonesia AirAsia jet went down in the Java Sea in December.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected by the Germanwings crash 🙁