Search called off overnight, 150 people presumed dead after Germanwings airliner crashes in French Alps
Recovery teams have suspended the search for the bodies of 150 people who are presumed dead after their Germanwings flight crashed in the southern French Alps.
The Airbus A320 went down between Digne and Barcelonette, less than an hour after taking off from Barcelona on its way to Dusseldorf. Among the 144 passengers was a group of 16 German schoolchildren and their two teachers who were returning from an exchange trip to Catalonia. Two pilots and four cabin crew were also on board.
Failing light and bad weather prompted recovery teams and investigators to call off the search of the crash site overnight. However, there is precious little hope of them finding any survivors given the wreckage in the rough and hilly Alpine terrain. Reports from the ground suggest there are no pieces of debris larger than a small car.
The plane’s Black Box has been found and will offer investigators vital clues as to why the 24-year-old plane descended suddenly and rapidly just a minute after reaching its cruising altitude of 38,500 feet. In the absence of a distress signal from the flight crew, air traffic controllers on the ground issued their own distress warning after the plane took an eight-minute dive to 6,000 feet.
From that point there was no further contact with air traffic control and the plane disappeared from radars at 10:53 local time. France’s Interior Ministry has said that debris was found at an altitude of around 6,500 feet.
The pilot had more than 6,000 hours flying experience in a 10-year career and bad weather has been ruled out as a cause of the crash. There is no evidence so far of terrorism, according to the American government and Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings has said it is treating the crash as an accident.
Investigators have described a scene of devastation where the plane crashed.
Aerial photographs showed smouldering wreckage and a piece of the fuselage with six windows.