25 Mar 2015

Germanwings plane crash: ‘Three Britons killed’

At least three British nationals were killed when a German Airbus crashed into an Alpine mountainside, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond offered “heartfelt condolences” to family and friends of those who died; “We currently believe that three British people have been killed in this tragedy, but we cannot rule out the possibility that there are further British people involved.

“The level of information on the flight manifest doesn’t allow us to rule out that possibility until we’ve completed some further checks.

Mr Hammond spoke as French investigators searched for the reason why the plane crashed, killing all 150 on board including 16 teenagers returning from a school trip to Spain.

Germanwings crash updates: what we know so far

There were apparently no survivors from the 144 passengers – including 16 schoolchildren and two teachers – and six crew on board the Airbus A320, flight 4U 9525, after it went into an eight-minute descent before crashing near Digne in the French Alps.

The aircraft was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it crashed on Tuesday morning on a mountainside near Meolans-Revels and the popular Pra Loup ski resort.

The black box and flight data recorder – crucial in piecing together what happened – were found damaged on Wednesday -but the French Interior Minister it could be used to find out information about the crash.

‘No distress signal’

Those on board the first helicopter to land near the site confirmed there were no survivors, with witnesses describing how the plane had disintegrated with no piece of wreckage bigger than a car.

Germanwings said the captain on board was experienced and had been with the airline and its parent company Lufthansa for more than 10 years and had clocked up 6,000 flying hours on this Airbus model.

Germanwings said the plane had a normal service at Dusseldorf on Monday and its last major check-up had been in summer 2013. Investigators said they were puzzled as to why the crew did not send out a distress signal.

Teenage victims

Among those travelling on the plane with her baby was Marina Bandres, who came from Jaca in the Spanish Pyrenees and lived in Britain, Jaca mayor Victor Barrio said. Ms Bandres, reportedly 37, had been attending a funeral in the area for a relative.

Mr Barrio said he did not know if Ms Bandres’ husband was on the flight with her and son Julian, who was seven or eight months old.

Also among the passengers were two German opera singers – Dusseldorf-born contralto Maria Radner and bass baritone Oleg Bryjak, who was born in Kazakhstan.

The 16 pupils, from Joseph Konig school in Haltern am See in western Germany, were flying home after a week-long exchange with students at a school near Barcelona. The Spanish children in the exchange are still in Germany.

Haltern’s mayor Bodo Klimpel said the school would be open as normal today when there would be a special event at morning assembly. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it was “likely that there were some British nationals” on board.

All options considered

All options must be looked into to explain why a German Airbus ploughed into an Alpine mountainside on Tuesday but a terrorist attack is not the most likely scenario, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.

Cazeneuve confirmed that the black box that was found on Tuesday was the cockpit voice recorder, saying that it had been damaged but could still be used to find information.

He said all options must be considered for the crash but a terrorist attack is not the main theory.