As of Tuesday afternoon, March 24, all 150 people, 144 passengers and six crew on board the Germanwings Airbus were pronounced dead in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades. Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Israeli citizen was among the passengers. Eyal Baum, a 39-year-old businessman from Hod HaSharon, was living in Germany and flying back from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. The Germanwings Airbus 320 was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf when it went down on a remote mountainside in the French Alps. The crash happened in the Trois Eveches mountain range, rising to 1,400 metres and difficult to access. 300 rescue workers and 300 gendarmes are deployed to help in the rescue. Helicopters can’t land and winching will have to be used, say specialist gendarmes.
“Nothing is left but debris and bodies,” a French MP says after overflying the scene.
67 Germans are believed to have been on the flight, and 16 German teenagers on a school exchange trip are feared to be among the dead. Some Turkish citizens are also thought to have been on the passenger list.
The following is a live blog play by play update for the hours after the plane went down early Tuesday.
16:52 GMT – Experts visiting scene – Representatives of Airbus and engine maker CFM will join seven experts from France’s BEA bureau of aviation investigations on a visit to the crash scene, the BEA says.
16:52 GMT – Inquiry under way – French interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announces that one of the black boxes from the Airbus A320 has been found “and will enable the inquiry already underway to make progress.”
15:42 GMT – 300 rescue workers – Three hundred rescue workers and 300 police have been deployed to the crash scene, along with 10 helicopters and military planes, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says on his arrival at Seyne, base for the rescue operation.
15:42 GMT – Two babies – The 144 passengers on board flight 4U 9525 included two babies, Germanwings’ Winkelmann says, adding that the six crew comprised two in the cockpit and four cabin staff.
15:42 GMT – Deadly plunge – More details from Germanwings of the deadly plunge by flight 4U 9525:
The plane reached its regular cruising altitude of 38,000 feet (11,500 meters) at 10:45 am. But after just one minute, it started plunging.
The descent lasted eight minutes and French air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:53 am (0953 GMT), when the aircraft had reached an altitude of around 6,000 feet, Germanwings executive Thomas Winkelmann said.
“The aircraft then crashed,” he said.
15:42 GMT – Update – All 150 people on board are dead in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades.
– The Germanwings Airbus 320 was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf when it went down on a remote mountainside in the French Alps.
– The crash happened in Les Trois Eveches mountain range, rising to 1,400 metres and very difficult to access.
– A local aerodrome is turned into a heliport as rescue helicopters shuttle to and from the crash scene.
– 67 Germans are believed to have been on flight 4U 9525, Germanwings says.
– Sixteen German teenagers on a school exchange trip are feared to be among the dead, an official says.
– Local police rule out any chance of survivors.
15:24 GMT – German school party – Marti Pujol says the German pupils and teachers left for Barcelona airport this morning, though he could not confirm they boarded the Germanwings flight as planned.
Some of the staff at the high school where they had been on an exchange programme knew their flight number and the time of their flight, he said. The school party was from the town of Haltern am See in northern Germany.
“All the signs point to them being on board the plane” when it crashed, says Georg Bockey, said a spokesman for the local authorities in Haltern.
15:24 GMT – Exchange trip victims – Sixteen German teenagers on a school exchange trip are feared to be among the 150 dead, an official says.
“There were 16 children and two teachers who had spent a week here, poor things. The children were aged about 15,”, Marti Pujol, mayor of the village of Llinars del Valles, near Barcelona, tells AFP.
15:18 GMT – 2010 incident – In 2012, it emerged that there had been a serious incident involving one of Germanwings’ aircraft at the end of 2010, when pilots were badly affected by fumes and complained of a burning smell in the cockpit as the plane approached Cologne airport.
Germanwings was accused of playing down the incident. 14:54 GMT – Eight minute nosedive – The Airbus A320 jet which crashed in the French Alps had only just reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet before it descended rapidly for eight minutes, the low-cost carrier Germanwings says.
The pilot of flight 4U 9525 had “more than 10 years of experience” and some 6,000 flying hours under his belt and the jet had undergone a thorough check in the summer of 2013, Germanwings executive Thomas Winkelmann tells a news conference.
14:54 GMT – OBAMA BRIEFED ON CRASH, US OFFERS HELP: WHITE HOUSE
14:54 GMT – ‘No hope of survivors’ – There is no hope of finding any survivors on board flight 4U 9525, say police.
“There is no need for any rescue operations, everyone is dead,” said a police officer in the town of Le Vernet, not far from the inaccessible mountain side where the doomed Germanwings airliner crashed.
14:53 GMT – GERMANWINGS SAYS JET UNDERWENT THOROUGH CHECK IN SUMMER 2013
14:16 GMT – Plane 24 years old – Airbus says the aircraft used on flight 4U 9525 was delivered to Lufthansa from the production line in 1991. It had accumulated approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights. It was powered by CFM 56-5A1 engines.
At the end of February 2015 nearly 6,200 A320 Family aircraft were in operation worldwide, Airbus says. The fleet has accumulated more than 150 million flight hours in over 85 million flights.
(AFP) – 14:04 GMT – Among worst crashes – Records show the crash of a German budget airliner in the French Alps is the worst air disaster in mainland France in 40 years and one of Europe’s worst in the past 10 years.
13:42 GMT – 1st Germanwings loss – Germanwings says none of its aircraft has ever been involved in a crash prior to the loss of an Airbus A320 in the French Alps.
“We’ve never had a total loss of aircraft in the company’s history until now,” a company spokeswoman told AFP.
13:42 GMT – Helicopters shuttling – A little aerodrome in Seyne-les-Alpes, usually used as a departure point for gliders, has been transformed into a heliport from where helicopters are shuttling to and from the crash scene, local chemist Francoise Barande tells AFP by telephone.
13:42 GMT – GERMANWINGS CREW DID NOT SEND DISTRESS SIGNAL: AVIATION OFFICIAL
13:41 GMT – MERKEL SAYS WILL TRAVEL TO FRENCH CRASH REGION ON WEDNESDAY
13:14 GMT – Summary of events – Helicopters are ferrying rescuers to a remote French mountain slope where a Germanwings airline has crashed, with all 150 people on board feared dead.
Crew of the Airbus A320 plane made a distress call at 10:47 am (0947 GMT) as the flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf passed over the French Alps.
The plane then disappeared from radar screens and fell to earth.
Authorities do not know the reason for the crash, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says.
“Major rescue efforts” have been mobilised, but accessing the remote region presents severe challenges, the French government says. “The zone is snow-bound and inaccessible to vehicles,” says Alain Vidalies, minister of state for transport.
The rescue may have to be done completely by helicopter as access to Estrop Head is only possible on summer hiking routes, according to local councillor Thierry Brown.
Mirage fighter planes have been brought in to provide overhead radio links for the rescue services.