Last updated: 01:03 PM ET, Wed March 25 2015

Germanwings Update: Search For Bodies, Debris Continues In France

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | March 25, 2015

Germanwings Update: Search For Bodies, Debris Continues In France

French rescue teams began the grisly task of removing human remains and debris this morning from the steep mountainside of the French Alps, where a Germanwings flight crashed Tuesday, killing all 150 on board.

Daybreak in France brought the needed sunlight to resume the task, although about two dozen members of the search team remained overnight to protect the integrity of the crash site.

One of the flight data recorders has already been recovered, a miraculous finding given that French officials have described the crash site as extensive, saying the flight “disintegrated” into thousands of pieces, none bigger than a small car, strewn about the remote mountainside of the Alps.

But as officials begin to answer the question of why the plane went down, Germanwings parent company Lufthansa said a report in a German magazine that there were concerns of a repair the previous day was unfounded.

Der Spiegel magazine reported that several other Germanwings flights scheduled for Tuesday were canceled when pilots refused to fly, citing the fact that the plane was grounded for an hour on Monday for repairs to the nose-wheel landing gear.

Lufthansa, which owns the low-budget Germanwings carrier, confirmed the one-hour repair but a spokesman said “The repair was purely to fix a noise that the door was making, and the aircraft was flying again from 10am on Monday.” Initial reports on Tuesday surrounding the canceled flights suggested that pilots and crew were too distraught to fly after learning about the crash, and a Lufthansa spokesperson reiterated again that crews refused to fly for “personal reasons.”

A French interior minister told CNN, "We cannot completely rule out terrorism, but it is not considered the most likely explanation."

The flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in southern France near the village of Digne. The mountainous area was too remote to get to quickly, but French military helicopters spotted the wreckage just 30 minutes after it disappeared from radar screens. According to various media reports, while helicopters can access the site they can only deliver so many search team members at a time. Others must hike two to three hours from the base of the town where a staging area has been set up to reach the crash site.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr visited the crash site and said “Germanwings and Lufthansa will do everything in our power to help in an uncomplicated and timely manner. We will enable the relatives to grieve on site as soon as possible."

All 144 passengers and six crew – including two babies and 16 German school children returning from an exchange program in Spain – were killed. At least two were Americans.

Pilots of the flight made their last contact with air traffic control at 10:47 a.m. French time, and the plane then disappeared from radar 33 minutes later. Reports say the flight was still in a straight path according to radar, and that it was in a controlled descent before air traffic controllers lost contact with the flight. Germanwings said the Airbus A320 was a 24-year old twin-engine jet.

This is the second Airbus A320 to go down in the last four months. An Airasia flight from Indonesia to Singapore crashed in December, killing all 162 on board.

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