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Last updated on April 3, 2015, at 6:30 a.m. ET

Posted on March 24, 2015, at 6:51 a.m. ET

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Black Box Data Shows Co-Pilot Accelerated Plane Into Mountains

A tablet recovered from Andreas Lubitz's home revealed searches for a medical condition, ways to commit suicide, and cockpit door security in the days before the crash, according to Dusseldorf's public prosecutor.

Workers are the crash site
AP Photo/Yves Malenfer, Ministere de l'Interieur

Workers are the crash site

What We Know So Far

  • The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 deliberately slammed the Airbus plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
  • Andreas Lubitz, 27, intentionally took the plane out of automatic controls and locked the captain out of the cockpit, indicating "a will to destroy this plane," French prosecutor Brice Robin said.
  • Lubitz researched suicide methods and cockpit door security in the days before the crash, according to his browser history, a German prosecutor said.
  • Officials said Monday that Lubitz received therapy for suicidal thoughts before he became a pilot. He was also treated for depression during his training.
  • Lubitz also tore up a doctor's note excusing him from work on the day of the crash of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, officials said.
  • Lubitz told Lufthansa in 2009 that he had suspended his pilot training for several months because of a "severe depressive episode."
  • The victims included 72 German citizens; 49 Spaniards; three British nationals; three from America; two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran, and Venezuela; and one each from the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, and Israel.
Data sourced from Flight Radar 24.
BuzzFeed News

Data sourced from Flight Radar 24.

Updates

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Flight recorder data from the second recovered black box show Lubitz accelerated the plane as it descended into the mountain, according to investigators.

As the AP reported:

It strengthens investigators' initial suspicions that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally destroyed the plane — though prosecutors are still trying to figure out why. All 150 people aboard Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf were killed in the March 24 crash.

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A French prosecutor announced on Thursday that investigators had found and studied over 2,800 body parts from all 150 victims of the plane crash.

Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said that investigators have found 2,854 body parts from all 150 people on board the Germanwings flight, the Associated Press reported.

Robin also spoke about the second black box, saying that it was found buried in a ravine that search parties had "already explored several times." It appeared that the black box had been burned, but it is still "possibly usable."

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A French prosecutor announced on Thursday that investigators had found and studied over 2,800 body parts from all 150 victims of the plane crash.

Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said that investigators have found 2,854 body parts from all 150 people on board the Germanwings flight, the Associated Press reported.

Robin also spoke about the second black box, saying that it was found buried in a ravine that search parties had "already explored several times." It appeared that the black box had been burned, but it is still "possibly usable."

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The second black box from the crashed plane has been recovered, the Marseille prosecutor announced Thursday.

The second black box, found after nine days, could possibly reveal more about details about the crash.

Voice recordings from the first box suggested that Lubitz had deliberately crashed the plane.

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Andreas Lubitz researched suicide methods and cockpit door security in the days before the crash, German prosecutors said Thursday.

BREAKING: German prosecutors: co-pilot appears to have researched suicide methods, cockpit door security.

A spokesman for Dusseldorf's public prosecutor said that investigators recovered Lubitz's browser history from last March to March 16 this year on his tablet.

Search terms included those relating to a medical treatment and ways of committing suicide. The browser history also indicated that Lubitz researched on cockpit doors and their security measures.

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Lufthansa executives visited the vicinity of the site of last week's Alpine crash Wednesday, and admitted it could take "a long, long time" to understand the circumstances that led to the incident, AP reported.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr (right) and Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann speak to the press after laying a wreath near the Alps crash site, April 1.
Jean-pierre Clatot / Getty Images

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr (right) and Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann speak to the press after laying a wreath near the Alps crash site, April 1.

Speaking to reporters in Seyne-des-Alpes, southern France, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann and his Lufthansa counterpart, Carsten Spohr, refused to say what they knew about the mental-health problems reportedly suffered by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in the run-up to the plane crash.

On Tuesday, Lufthansa acknowledged that it knew Lubitz has suffered "severe depression" before finishing his flight training for the company, but said he had passed all subsequent medical tests.

Spohr said they are "learning more every day" about what may have led to the crash, but conceded "it will take a long, long time to understand how this could happen."

Spohr then deflected a number of questions from reporters, before driving away, AP said.

Earlier, the pair laid a wreath near a stele in memory of the victims located close to the crash site, in the village of Le Vernet.

Jean-pierre Clatot / Getty Images
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Cell phone footage found among the wreckage of the Germanwings flight shows passengers screaming, according to reports in French and German newspapers.

Emmanuel Foudrot / Reuters

The footage was found on a cell phone among the French Alps wreckage site "by a source close to the investigation" and handed over to Paris Match and the Bild newspaper.

"The scene was so chaotic that it was hard to identify people, but the sounds of the screaming passengers made it perfectly clear that they were aware of what was about to happen to them," according to Paris Match.

"One can hear cries of 'My God' in several languages. Metallic banging can also be heard more than three times, perhaps of the pilot trying to open the cockpit door with a heavy object. Towards the end, after a heavy shake, stronger than the others, the screaming intensifies. Then nothing," the paper reported.

The report also details the final 10 minutes of the flight from a special investigator's description of the information contained on the cockpit voice recorder.

According to the reports, approximately 28 minutes into the flight, the captain removes his seatbelt to use the bathroom, having already told co-pilot Andreas Lubitz that he did not have time to do so before takeoff.

"You are in control now," the captain reportedly says to Lubitz.

According to Paris Match, "Lubitz answers with a seemingly light tone of voice: 'I hope so.'"

The reports state that Lubitz locked the cockpit door two minutes after the captain's exit and immediately reprogrammed the plane's autopilot to accelerate the aircraft's descent, "pushing the plane from 38,000 feet (11,000 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters) in a matter of minutes."

After Lubitz refused to open the cabin door, the report states that the captain used an oxygen tank or fire extinguisher to try to break down the door, yelling, "For the love of God, open this door!"

Approximately four minutes after Lubitz locked the door, the first sounds of passengers running in the aisles can be heard, according to the report. As alarms warn of incoming terrain, the captain tries to use a crowbar to bend the door open.

At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes after Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit, the plane's right wing strikes a mountain.

"A violent sound can be heard outside," according to Paris Match. "At the same time, inside, screaming.

"No other sound, save for the alarms and the screaming passengers."

One minute later, the report states, the plane struck a mountain, killing all on board.

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Andreas Lubitz told Lufthansa in 2009 that he had interrupted his training as a pilot for several months because of an "episode of severe depression," airline officials said in a statement Tuesday.

Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, said it had handed over several training and medical documents to the Düsseldorf Public Prosecutor as part of its investigation into the deadly crash in the French Alps.

"These also include the email correspondence of the copilot [Lubitz] with the Flight Training Pilot School," the airline said in a statement.

"In this correspondence he informed the Flight Training Pilot School in 2009, in the medical documents he submitted in connection with resuming his flight training, about a 'previous episode of severe depression.'"

The airline said Lubitz had a medical certificate "confirming his fitness to fly."

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BREAKING: Prosecutors: Germanwings co-pilot was treated years ago for suicidal tendencies.

Prosecutors in Düsseldorf on Monday said Lubitz received psychotherapy "with a note about suicidal tendencies" for multiple years before he became a pilot.

Still, investigators have found no evidence of a specific motive, the Associated Press reported.

"We have found medical documentation that showed no organic medical illness," Düsseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said, ABC News reported.

German doctors who work with pilots told the AP that the standard medical evaluation to fly includes only a cursory psychological exam.

The system ultimately depends on pilots being truthful about any history of mental illness.

"You can't see anything beyond the face," Dr. Hans-Werner Teichmueller told the AP. "We have developed a very refined system in Europe and most of us are in agreement that this system is optimal. If we were to add more psychological tests or modify the way we test, then we can still not change a situation like this."

German prosecutors added that in recent medical screenings, Lubitz showed no signs of suicidal tendencies or aggression. That indicates he had either been successfully treated or he lied to doctors, Dr. Roland Quast of the Aeromedical Center Germany told the New York Times.

"What is decisive is that the pilot tells the truth," Quast told the Times. "If he lies, we don't have lie detectors."

The specifics of Lubitz's medical history have so far been protected by German privacy laws. He remained under the regular care of doctors, however, with one doctor's note excusing him from work the day of the crash.

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Lubitz reportedly may have suffered from vision problems as serious as a detached retina.

Investigators have found evidence that Lubitz feared losing his eyesight because of the condition, but they are not sure if his symptoms were due to physical or psychological causes, Reuters reported, citing local media.

According to police, the symptoms may have been psychosomatic.

Evidence found in his home showed that Lubitz also suffered from severe stress and was "treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists," investigators told German media.

Investigators also found a significant amount of medication in his home.

Reports also emerged on Sunday that Lubitz' girlfriend, who is a teacher, recently told her students she was pregnant, according to Reuters.

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The senior pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the Alps can be heard in the black box voice recordings shouting "open the damn door," according to Sky News.

Patrick Aventurier / Getty Images

The plane's captain left the cockpit to go to the toilet but on his return he found the cockpit's door locked.

In spite of his repeated pleas, his co-pilot Andreas Lubitz refused to unlock the door.

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A report by the Associated Press states that as a child Lubitz regularly visited a gliding club, located 30 miles from the crash site, with his family.

Jeff Pachoud / Getty Images

The mountainous area is popular with gliders, according to the Associated Press. Officials at the club did not comment on the report.

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Lubitz sought treatment for his vision shortly before the Germanwings flight, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The eye treatment may have compromised his ability to work as a pilot, according to the Times, which cited two officials with knowledge of the investigation.

The full extent of the co-pilot's vision problems is not yet known but one of the officials said authorities are looking into whether Lubitz's eyesight problems could have been psychosomatic.

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The former girlfriend of the co-pilot who crashed a plane in the French Alps has told a German newspaper he said to her, "One day everyone will know my name."

Andreas Lubitz participates in the Frankfurt City Half-Marathon on March 14, 2010.
Getty Images

Andreas Lubitz participates in the Frankfurt City Half-Marathon on March 14, 2010.

Lubitz's ex-girlfriend, whose identity is unknown, was a flight attendant in the same flights as Lubitz for five months last year. She told the Bild newspaper that she was "very shocked" to hear the news.

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Lufthansa will pay up to 50,000 euros per passenger to the bereaved, a representative for the airline told BuzzFeed News.

"We are aware that we cannot compensate materially for the loss that the bereaved have suffered as a result of this tragic accident. However, we wish to offer them initial financial aid in a swift and unbureaucratic manner," said Claudia Lange, head of corporate communications for Lufthansa.

Lange added that the airline will "cover the immediate expenses resulting from this tragic accident by making an advance payment of up to 50,000 euros per victim."

Additional claims will not be affected by this financial assistance.

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French police said they have found 400-600 pieces of human remains from the flight.

BREAKING: French police: 400-600 pieces of human remains retrieved from German flight; no intact bodies.

"We haven't found a single body intact," Col. Patrick Touron told the AP on Friday. Police are trying to identify victims after taking their DNA samples from objects provided by their families.

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The German aviation authority (BDL) has confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it will be implementing a rule that requires two people to be in a plane's cockpit at any one time following this week's Alpine plane crash, as initially reported by AFP.

The German aviation authority (BDL) statement (in German) confirming implementation of 2 person cockpit rule

In an email to BuzzFeed News, BDL spokesperson Christine Kolmar said: "German airlines agreed today to implement the two authorized person agreement now."

The BDL's official statement, translated from German to English, said:

Two-person in rule the cockpit

German airlines introduce a new procedure

After the tragic plane crash in France, the German airlines, under the auspices of the Federation of German Air Traffic Management (BDL) consulted with the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and the Federal Aviation Office. According to our guidance, German airlines, as an initial move, must follow a provisional procedure in which the cockpit of the aircraft must have two authorized persons in at all times.

The implementation of this two-person rule is in accordance to this agreement by our airlines.

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German prosecutors said they found torn-up doctor's notes excusing Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz from working on the day of the crash during a search of his home on Friday.

AP reported that they also discovered evidence that he had failed to disclose illness to his employer.

In a written statement, prosecution spokesperson Ralf Herrenbrueck said the torn-up sick notes "support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues."

Other medical documents found suggested "an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment," but no suicide note was found, Herrenbreuck said. Investigators also did not find any indiction of a political or religious motive for the crash.

Doctor's notes excusing employees from work are commonplace in Germany, even for minor conditions. Prosecutors didn't reveal any specifics on the illness Lubitz was suffering from, AP said.

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Reports in the German media claimed evidence has been found confirming that Lubitz was suffering from depression.

Der Spiegel reported that items retrieved by police from his flat in Düsseldorf and from the home near Frankfurt that he shared with his parents suggested Lubitz suffered from "psychological illness."

Bild claimed to have obtained confidential medical records that show that Lubitz went through a "heavily depressive episode" some years ago, which was why he broke off his flight training for several months, and that he was still undergoing treatment.

The German authorities have yet to confirm either the Bild or the Spiegel reports. However, according to the Daily Mail, a police spokesperson said: "We have found something which will now be taken for tests. We cannot say what it is at the moment but it may be very significant clue to what has happened."

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Lufthansa tweeted this message on Friday:

“Our focus in these darkest hours is to provide assistance to the families & friends of the victims of flight 4U9525” /Thomas Winkelmann

"... but we want to be there for visiting family members and friends if our support is desired.” /Thomas Winkelmann 2/2

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German police on Thursday removed boxes and a computer from the home belonging to the parents of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

German authorities said they hoped to find evidence in the home.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

The search came as questions remained about why the 27-year-old had, according to French prosecutors, deliberately destroyed the Airbus A320 and killed the 149 others on board.

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Data from the flight's autopilot suggested it was manually reset from 38,000 feet to 100 feet before the plane began its fatal descent.

Analysis of Flightradar24 ADS-B/ModeS data: Autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 to 100 ft at 09:30:55 #4U9525

Air traffic website Flight Radar 24 published an analysis of the flight's transponder. The autopilot was manually changed seconds before the plane began to descend, the site reported.

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Several European airlines on Thursday said they will now require two people to be in a plane's cockpit at all times, Reuters reported.

Having two people in the cockpit at all times is a requirement in the United States.

Reuters reported that the policy change had been adopted by Norwegian Air Shuttle, easyJet, Air Canada, and Air Berlin. A Lufthansa spokesman said the airline did not see an immediate need to change its policy, but German aviation companies would be discussing potential changes in the coming days.

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A rescue worker descends from a helicopter at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, on Thursday.
Laurent Cipriani / AP

A rescue worker descends from a helicopter at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, on Thursday.

U.S. says crash does not appear to be related to terrorism

White House spokeperson Josh Earnest said the U.S. does not believe there is a link to terrorism in the Germanwings crash.

"Based on what we know, there is not a nexus to terrorism," he said Thursday during an interview with CNN.

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Reports: Germanwings captain identified

The captain of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday has been identified as Patrick Sonderheimer, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported.

The French authorities who are investigating the case did not identify the captain by name. A spokesperson for Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, told BuzzFeed News that the airline would not confirm the identity of the captain "out of respect for his privacy."

But La Vanguardia, a large daily newspaper in Barcelona, and Bild, Germany's largest tabloid, have identified the captain as Sonderheimer and Patrick S., respectively.

Europe1, a French radio station, interviewed a former colleague of the captain, who said that the pilot had a lot of experience and was well-regarded among his co-workers. The radio station did not name Sonderheimer, but refer to him as "the commander" of the Airbus.

"He was one of our best pilots," said the former colleague, identified only as Dieter. "I'm 100% sure that he did everything he could. I knew him very well. He had a lot of experience, more than 6,000 of flight. He was a very good man, he had a great sense of humor."

Dieter, the captain's colleague, said that the pilot was married and had two small children.

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Police on Thursday hold media away from the house where Andreas Lubitz lived in Montabaur, Germany.
Michael Probst / AP

Police on Thursday hold media away from the house where Andreas Lubitz lived in Montabaur, Germany.

Lufthansa CEO: "Not the best security system in the world could exclude this kind of event."

Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa airlines (of which Germanwings is a subsidiary), held an emotional press conference today to address lingering questions about the fatal crash that has been classified as deliberate.

He explained that when Andreas Lubitz, the German co-pilot who intentionally crashed the Germanwings plane, was training, he took a leave of absence for several months, but could not provide further details on the nature of his training hiatus.

"We cannot tell you the reason of this interruption," he said, but added it was "not unusual" for trainees to do so.

"As he returned to training, he passed all tests with 100 percent," Spohr added.

Officials originally said Lubitz was 28 years old. Reports from other news organizations, including the New York Times, cited his birthday as Dec. 18, 1987, which would make him 27.

As far as concerns over whether the crash, which killed 150 people, was being investigated as terrorist attack, Spohr said, "We don't have any informations that this was an act of terrorism."

He does not consider the crash a suicide.

"I would say if one person kills himself and 149 people, I wouldn't call it a suicide," he said.

Spohr confirmed that the Germanwings head pilot "left the cockpit within all regulations, while the plane was in cruising altitude."

"We are just sorry," he said.

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Germanwings' parent company, Lufthansa, has tweeted a response to the revelations made by Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin on Thursday morning.

We are shaken by the upsetting statements of the French authorities. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families... 1/2

... and friends of the victims. The next press conference will take place this afternoon at 2.30 pm (German time). 2/2

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The co-pilot of the crashed Germanwings flight “voluntarily” activated the plane's descent system, and refused to open the cockpit door to the pilot, the Marseille prosecutor said during a news conference on Thursday.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, center, with Gen. David Galtier, right, holds a news conference in Marseille, France, on Thursday.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, center, with Gen. David Galtier, right, holds a news conference in Marseille, France, on Thursday.

Prosecutor Brice Robin cited a transcript of the last 30 minutes of the cockpit voice recorder, saying that "the intention was to destroy this plane."

Robin identified the co-pilot as Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old German national, but did not give any further information on his background.

During the first 20 minutes of the conversation between the pilot and the co-pilot, things were cordial. After the pilot exited the cabin — "presumably to use the toilet" — the co-pilot was breathing normally, he did not utter a single word." Then for the last 10 minutes, there was "absolute silence," apart from the co-pilot's breathing within the cockpit.

"I think he refused to open the door and turned the button to get the plane down. It was a voluntary action on the part of the co-pilot," Robin said.

He said that the only way to operate the descent button on the plane was voluntarily. It cannot be operated automatically.

"He is not known as a terrorist, absolutely not," Robin added.

The prosecutor said that in the last 10 minutes of the voice recorder's audio, the pilot made a number of attempts to get access to the cockpit, but was unable to. As the descent continued, the pilot started attempting to knock the reinforced door down.

The prosecutor said: "There's no question it's a voluntary action 1) to refuse access to cockpit, 2) to start the descent."

Robin said that there was no attempt to make a distress call from the plane despite "numerous attempts" to ask the plane to do so from the control tower.

He said that "nothing indicates" the crash was terrorism, and refused to describe the co-pilot's actions as suicide.

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Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium School in Haltern am See, Germany, has posted the identities of the 16 students and two teachers on board the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps this week on its website.

Joseph-König-Gymnasium in Haltern: Schule gedenkt mit Todesanzeige der Absturzopfer http://t.co/37oNp8QQEo

A translation of the post in English:

The news of the terrible plane crash in France has shocked us all.

Sixteen young students and two female colleagues will never again return to our midst.

We mourn our students and pupils:

  • Linda Bergjügen
  • Elena Bleẞ
  • Lea Drüppel
  • Selia Eils
  • Gina Michelle Gerdes
  • Ann-Christin Hahn
  • Julia Hermann
  • Marleen Koch
  • Paula Lütkenhaus
  • Fabio Rogge
  • Rabea Scheideler
  • Lea Schukart
  • Helena Siebe
  • Steffen Strang
  • Aline Vanhoff
  • Caja Westermann

And our colleagues:

  • Sonja Cercek
  • Stefanie Tegethoff

Our deepest sympathy goes out to the parents and all family and friends.

We are stunned and unspeakably sad.

Ulrich Wessel — headteacher Thomas Duettman — for the staff Magdalene Fry — for the parents Johanna Koenig — for the alumni community

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An Airbus training video indicates there are safeguards against one pilot being locked out of the cabin while the other is incapacitated, the Associated Press reported:

An Airbus training video shows that the A320 cockpit has safeguards in case one pilot inside becomes incapacitated while the other is outside, or if both pilots inside are unconscious. Normally, someone trying to get into the cockpit requests access and a camera feed or peephole lets the pilot decide whether to accept or specifically deny access.

If there is no response, a member of the flight crew can tap in an emergency code again requesting access. If there is still no response, the door opens automatically. If, however, the person in the cockpit denies access after the emergency request, the door remains locked for five minutes, according to the Airbus video.

The relevant section begins at 3:57:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com
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Audio from a voice recorder indicates one of the plane's pilots was locked out of the cockpit during the crash, the New York Times reported.

An unnamed military official told the Times that one of the pilots left the cockpit, then was unable to re-enter as the plane descended.

He could be heard knocking on the door, then pounding on it after receiving no answer from inside, the official told the Times. The recording gives no indication why one pilot left and why the other did not open the cockpit door.

Agence France-Presse on Wednesday also confirmed the report, citing an "investigation source."

#BREAKING: Pilot locked out of cockpit before Germanwings crash: investigation source

AFP reported additionally that the recordings indicated the cockpit door opened and closed before the sound of knocking. An unnamed source in the report added: "There was no more conversation from that point until the crash."

In 2002, Airbus announced new security features for its cockpit doors to meet requirements of Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities following the attacks of 9/11. The features became standard on new aircraft, and retrofits were offered to its airline customers.

"The new cockpit door protects the crew from unauthorized entry while also delivering a number of safety contingencies," an Airbus statement said at the time.

The door's features included a reinforced, bulletproof main panel, electrical latching, an electronic entry pad in the cabin, and a toggle control in the cockpit that could secure the door if necessary.

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Three Americans are confirmed killed in the crash, the State Department said Wednesday.

Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the U.S. has confirmed that Yvonne Selke of Virginia and her daughter Emily were killed in the crash, Reuters reported.

She said that another American citizen was also killed, but their name is not being released.

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An audio file has been successfully extracted from the cockpit voice recorder, according to to Remi Jouty, head of France's air crash investigating unit, BEA.

Charles Platiau / Reuters

"There were some problems to read the data," Jouty told reporters in Paris, "but nevertheless it was good news and a relief for us that we were able to extract an audio file that we can use."

Jouty said it was too early to speculate on the exact cause of the crash, but said that radar signals indicate the plane "flew to the end" before crashing into the mountainside.

He said the relatively small debris field also suggests the plane did not explode mid-air, but rather crashed into the angled mountain at high speed, which would also explain the small pieces of debris found.

Jouty would not be drawn on whether it is likely that the cockpit or entire cabin became depressurized before the crash, but did say the curve of the plane's descent does suggest some element of control.

"The curve is compatible with an aircraft controlled by pilots, except for the fact that we can't imagine pilots sending an aircraft into a mountain, but it may also be compatible with an autopilot," he said.

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President François Hollande told reporters in Seyne-les-Alpes, near the crash site, that investigators have found the casing of the flight data recorder, but not the black box itself.

BORIS HORVAT/AFP / Getty Images

The president was speaking alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose countries both suffered heavy causalities in the crash.

Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters

"We are very much united and connected," Merkel said, after visiting the staging post for rescue workers with Hollande.

"I would like to say to all relatives and friends of the victims that they will be very much welcome here when they wish to come to where this tragedy happened," she said.

Rajoy also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of the victims.

"We would like to be together with you in your pain," he said. "We know it's not going to be easy because the worst that could happen to a human being has happened."

Hollande praised rescue workers for their quick response to the tragedy.

"Unfortunately, there was no possibility of saving anyone because there were no survivors," he said. "But those operations made it possible to make the site secure and to work in a difficult area ... to do what had to be done to protect the bodies, to protect the parts of the destroyed aircraft so that the investigation can achieve some results."

The French leader promised that the investigation will shed light on the circumstances of the disaster.

"In times of trial, and we've had a few here in recent months, there's also solidarity," he said. "Human solidarity is among us. And I'm proud that France can give this image in this moment of pain."

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Watch a live stream from France 24 of the leaders of France, Germany, and Spain addressing the plane crash:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com
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Here's what we know so far about the identities of the victims of the Germanwings plane crash. More information can be found here.

Family handout
  • Paul Andrew Bramley (pictured), 28, of Hull, U.K., a student at Caeser Ritz College in Lucerne, Switzerland.
  • Martyn Matthews, 50, of Wolverhampton, U.K., an employee at the British branch of German car parts firm Huf.
  • Juan Armando Pomo, 51, a businessman from Argentina.
  • María del Pilar Tejada, 33, from Colombia, an economist who was completing a PhD at the University of Cologne, Germany.
  • Luis Eduardo Medrano, 36, from Colombia, an architect who had been working in Equatorial Guinea.
  • Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio, 37, from Jaca, Spain, but living in Manchester, U.K, a film editor and colorist.
  • Julian Pracz-Bandres, 7 months, the baby son of Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio.
  • 16 students and two teachers from Joseph-König-Gymnasium school in Haltern am See, Germany.
  • Oleg Bryjak, from Kazakhstan, 54, a bass baritone opera singer.
  • Maria Radner, 34, from Düsseldorf, Germany, an opera singer, and her husband and baby.
  • Josep Sabaté Casellas, from A Coruña, Spain, an expectant father and employee of Esprit.
  • A "large number" of people who work for food and drinks companies, heading to a conference in Cologne, Germany.
  • The 33-year-old wife of Oriol Junqueras, a prominent member of the Republican Left of Catalonia.
  • Greig Friday, 29, and Carol Friday, 68 a mother and son from Victoria, Australia.
  • Iris Claassen, 20, from Deurne, The Netherlands.
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Earlier on Wednesday, students at Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium school in Haltern-am-See, northern Germany gathered to pay tribute to their 16 schoolmates who were passengers on the ill-fated Germanwings flight.

Ina Fassbender / Reuters
Ina Fassbender / Reuters
Sascha Schuermann / Getty Images
Ina Fassbender / Reuters
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have joined French President Francois Hollande on a visit to Seyne-Les-Alpes, in the vicinity of the Germanwings crash site, where they are meeting with recovery teams.

DIRECT - #CrashA320 A. Merkel, F. Hollande et M. Rajoy sont arrivés sur place https://t.co/O2UAo2PCcV #Germanwings

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The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety has released images of the damaged cockpit voice recorder recovered from the wreckage of Tuesday's Alpine plane crash.

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Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the victims of Tuesday's Alpine plane crash included 72 German citizens, 35 Spaniards, and 2 Americans, AP reported.

BREAKING: Germanwings CEO: Plane victims included 72 German citizens, 35 Spaniards, 2 Americans.

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Some Germanwings flight crew members were uncomfortable flying on Wednesday, the airline said in a statement, and one flight was canceled. The airline said:

Following the incident in France yesterday, Germanwings cancels one flight today and operates the remaining flights according to schedule. Due to emotional distress, some crew members are also unfit for service today. Germanwings understands these circumstances, as crew members have lost beloved colleagues in the incident.

Today, Germanwings operates eleven aircraft, predominantly from other airlines like Lufthansa, Air Berlin and TuiFly on approximately 40 flights.

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U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said three Britons were among those killed in Tuesday's Germanwings crash. The British Foreign Office told BuzzFeed News it would not be confirming their identities as yet.

At least three Britons died in Alps air crash that killed 150 people, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says http://t.co/5aoZrCP7hz

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Germanwings has retired flight number 9525 as a mark of respect to the victims of Tuesday's Alpine plane crash, multiple sources reported.

Lufthansa is retiring flight number 9525 after a #Germanwings plane with same code crashed. http://t.co/HN0uy41LCR

The airline's Barcelona to Düsseldorf route is operating today, but with a different flight number, Sky News said.

A Sky News TV reporter spoke to passengers travelling to Düsseldorf from Barcelona's El Prat airport on Wednesday morning. Some said they were "nervous" about catching their flight, but one said he felt it was "probably the safest flight in the world."

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France's Interior Ministry said the black box voice recorder from the crashed Germanwings flight was damaged in the disaster, AP reported.

BREAKING: French interior minister: Black box voice recorder damaged in Alpine jet crash

However, it should still be possible to retrieve data from the device.

A second black box, a flight data recorder, has yet to be recovered, according to AFP.

Search and recovery teams resumed their operations at the crash site in the French Alps on Wednesday morning.

Search and recovery teams resume work in French Alps http://t.co/Tg58Q46Soz

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Authorities identified the Australians on the plane as mother Carol Friday and her son Greig.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop names Australian victims of #Germanwings crash in Alps as Victorians Carol Friday and her son Greig

Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs
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Germanwings canceled seven flights after crew members reported feeling "unfit to fly."

Speaking about the canceled flights, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said many crew members knew people working on the crashed plane, the Associated Press reported.

"It is now more important to ensure psychological assistance if needed," Spohr said. "And we will get back to a full flight operation as soon as possible then. But for me, this is rather secondary now."

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The European Aviation Safety Administration issued an "emergency airworthiness directive" last year that included the Airbus A320.

The directive warned that members of Airbus's A320 family of planes could go into a "nose down pitch rate that, in a worst case scenario, cannot be stopped."

The warning came after a Lufthansa Airbus A321 — which is similar to the A320, but longer — went into a dive on Nov. 5. The onboard computer put the plane into the dive in response to a pair of external sensors becoming iced over during takeoff, according to Der Spiegel.

The plane reportedly dropped several thousand feet before the pilot regained control.

The emergency airworthiness directive warned that if the problem with the probes isn't corrected it "could result in loss of control of the aeroplane." It also stated that Airbus revised its flight manual to deal with the problem.

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President Obama called Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Tuesday to express condolences for the crash.

During his phone call, Obama "conveyed his condolences and those of the American people to Spain and to the families of those lost on the flight." He also offered assistance from American officials.

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Some British nationals were likely on the plane, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Tuesday.

In a statement, Hammond explained that "based on the information available to us, it is sadly likely that there were some British nationals on board the flight." He did not provide additional details, but said the British government was working with other authorities "to establish the facts."

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More images of the crash site have emerged.

Pool New / Reuters

French rescue workers and police can be seen here making their way around the debris.

Pool New / Reuters

Police will camp near the wreckage overnight to ensure the security of the crash site.

Pool New / Reuters
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Condolence books have been set up in the town of Seyne, France, near where the jet came down.

BORIS HORVAT/AFP / Getty Images
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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says two Australians, a mother and son, were among those killed in the crash.

Two Australians have been killed in the Germanwings crash in the French Alps A mother and son.

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The search has been called off for the night and will resume in the morning, according to officials quoted by the BBC.

Robert Pratta / Reuters

Military personnel will camp at the crash site overnight to secure the area, the BBC reported.

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A candlelight vigil has been held outside the school in the German town of Haltern am See, where 16 teenagers onboard the Germanwings flight were returning after a student exchange program in Barcelona.

Sascha Schuermann /AFP / Getty Images
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In addition to Oleg Bryjak, opera singer Maria Radner was also among those on board, according to Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Facebook: liceu
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The Düsseldorf opera company Deutsche Oper am Rhein announced that star baritone Oleg Bryjak was among those on board.

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The singer was returning from Barcelona, where he had performed in Richard Wagner's Siegfried at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Opera director Christoph Meyer said, "We have lost a great performer and a great person in Oleg Bryjak. We are stunned."

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Lufthansa Vice President for Europe Heike Birlenbach told reporters in Barcelona the company's main focus is now investigating what caused the plane to come down.

BBC World News

She said Lufthansa, which is the parent company of Germanwings, is treating the crash as an accident.

"We will do now everything to find out what happened and what was the cause and what happened to the passengers and crew," Birlenbach said.

"This is a tragic moment for Lufthansa and it's a really dark day in our history."

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France TV Info has shared this footage from the crash site.

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Members of France's National Assembly observed a minute's silence to remember the victims of the crash.

Charles Platiau / Reuters
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A black box flight recorder has been located in the plane's wreckage, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters.

Robert Pratta / Reuters
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French police tweeted this image of the search zone. A no-fly zone has been established for other aircraft.

#Germanwings La zone du #CrashA320 du vol #4U9525 est bouclée. Le survol aérien y est interdit par arrêté préfectoral

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According to Germany's BILD tabloid, this is how a Germanwings pilot informed passengers on a flight from Berlin to Düsseldorf that Flight 4U 9525 had gone down.

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Translation of the cockpit announcement:

...that a plane of Germanwings has crashed. We don't know why, we don't know any reasons yet. We have to wait for the official investigations — that's why please you not to ask the cabin personnel any further questions. We, my colleague Benjamin Benz [unsure of name] and I are going to bring you safely to Düsseldorf. Thank you for your understanding.

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French police tweeted this picture outlining the scale of the response effort:

#Germanwings Mobilisation de la gendarmerie suite au #Crash de l'#A320 - Vol #4U9525

The police said that 210 officers are on the scene of the crash, with nine helicopters also assisting.

Another 350 officers are on the way to the crash site, police said.

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Our first images of the plane's wreckage http://t.co/VxurYtdujU #crashA320 #Germanwings

Las fotos exclusivas del accidente de avión http://t.co/VxurYtdujU #crashA320 #Germanwings

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Germanwings released the following statement on Twitter:

We must confirm to our deepest regret that Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf has suffered an accident over the 1/5

French Alps. The flight was being operated with an Airbus A320 aircraft, and was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members. 2/5

Lufthansa and Germanwings have established a telephone hotline. The toll-free 0800 11 33 55 77 number is available to all the families 3/5

of the passengers involved for care and assistance. Everyone at Germanwings and Lufthansa is deeply shocked and saddened 4/5

by these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew members. 5/5

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Germany's national soccer team will wear black ribbons during their test match with Australia on Wednesday in memory of the victims of the crash, the team announced on Twitter.

Das @DFB_Team spielt morgen gegen die @Socceroos mit Trauerflor. #4U9525 #Germanwings #GERAUS

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In a statement, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. is reviewing whether any Americans were on the flight.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP / Getty Images

We are saddened by the news that Germanwings flight 9525 crashed in southern France on its way from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 150 people on board. We are reviewing whether any U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. The United States stands ready to offer assistance and support to the governments of France, Germany, and Spain as they investigate this tragedy.

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The victims include a group of 16 German high school students and two of their teachers, according to multiple reports.

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Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and representatives of the German government are on their way to France. An evening press release is planned.

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Local newspaper Le Dauphine has this first image of the crash site.

BREAKING First photo of #Germanwings #4U9525 Crash site /LeDauphine http://t.co/wFg8KTSve2

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The French president and Spanish king have been meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris to discuss the crash.

Déclaration conjointe de @fhollande et du Roi Felipe VI d'Espagne à la suite du crash : http://t.co/BJtw75ngc3

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Local MP Christophe Castaner said on Twitter that the plane is "totally destroyed."

Survol avec le ministre de l'intérieur de la zone du crach, une horreur. L'avion est totalement détruit. Tristesse. #GermanWings #A320

Translation:

Flyover the crash zone with the Interior minister, what a horror. The plane is totally destroyed. Sadness

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France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said the Germanwings crash site has been located in the French Alps, but no survivors have been found. From AP:

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says a helicopter has managed to land near where a passenger plane carrying 150 people crashed in the Alps, but found no survivors.

The weather in the area deteriorated Tuesday afternoon, with a chilly rain falling.

Gilbert Sauvan, of the local council, told Les Echos newspaper, "The plane is disintegrated."

"The largest debris is the size of a car," he added.

The Germanwings Airbus 320 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, Germany, came down in the mountains on Tuesday morning after an eight-minute descent from its cruising height. Officials said they are still establishing whether there was a distress call.

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Five hundred people are working as part of the rescue effort, Gilbert Sauvan, president of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told Les Echos newspaper.

Jean-paul Pelissier / Reuters
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This aerial footage reportedly shows the mountain range where the plane came down.

View this video on YouTube

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The weather in the search area may be getting worse, according to Germany's national public broadcaster, ARD.

#4U9525: Wetter an Unglückstelle verschlechtert sich zunehmend, meldet ARD-Studio #Paris. Schneefall beeinträchtigt Vorankommen der Retter.

Translation:

The weather is getting worse, says the ARD Studio Paris. Snowfalls makes it hard for the rescue teams to get there.

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The crashed Germanwings plane went on an eight minute descent before crashing, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said during a press conference in Cologne, Germany.

He added that no reason had yet been established for the plane's descent.
Patrik Stollarz / Getty Images

He added that no reason had yet been established for the plane's descent.

Winkelmann also said he believed that 67 Germans were on board the flight, but was unable to confirm that figure with certainty. He said that two babies were among the passengers.

2 babies were among 144 passengers on board crashed #Germanwings plane - @germanwings says in news briefing http://t.co/INhcBgUKHF

Winkelmann said the pilot had been flying for 10 years with 6,000 hours experience on Airbus A320 planes.

#Germanwings CEO on flight #4U9525: Plane's captain had notched up some 6,000 flying hours

He added that the plane had received its most recent routine check yesterday, and its last major check in the summer of 2013.

#4U9525: Germanwings CEO: Pilot had 6000 hours of experience on Airbus A320. Plane last had major check summer 2013 http://t.co/ocXozFfbfv

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Airbus issued a statement saying the 1991 aircraft had accumulated approximately 58,300 flight hours in around 46,700 flights.

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Officials said an air traffic tower, not the plane, sent a distress signal:

Alain Vidalies, French Secretary of Transportation, told AFP that a distress call was registered at 10:47 a.m. The call did not come from the plane, but from the Aix en Provence control tower, which lost radar contact with the aircraft and noticed something was wrong.

A Germanwings official said there is no additional information on the distress call.

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Germanwings officials: Pilot had 10 years experience, with 6,000 hours of flight experience. The plane's last major checkup was summer 2013.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit the crash site tomorrow, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

#EnVivo Merkel visitará mañana el lugar donde se ha estrellado el avión de #germanwings http://t.co/0ITBiXBqVc

Translation:

Merkel will visit the site where the plane crashed tomorrow.

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This person tweeted this photo from near the search zone.

#crashA320 Les hélicos tournent autour du col de Mariaud. L'avion se serait écrasé près de la rivière le Galèbre

It reads:

Helicopters fly around the Mariaud [mountain] pass. The plane would have crashed near the Galèbre river.

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About 15 passengers on board the plane were German students coming home after "a student exchange trip with Catalonia’s Giola Institute secondary school in Linars del Vallès," a staff member told The Local.

A spokeswoman for a local town told BuzzFeed News: "The information that students of us were on this plane are not confirmed to us. The fact is, that a class of our students were booked on this plane. But we have to assume that they were on board."

Germanwings officials would not comment on the students.

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France 2 is flying in a helicopter near the crash zone in the Barcelonnette region.

Primera fotografía del helicóptero frances que busca en los Alpes los restos del vuelo #A320 de #Germanwings

It reads:

First photo of the French helicopter searching the Alps for the remains of Germanwings Flight A320.

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The French Interior Ministry is holding an emergency meeting to figure out how to manage the crisis.

#Germanwings : Premières images de la cellule interministérielle de crise activée @Place_Beauvau

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The French Defense Ministry retweeted these photos of search preparations being made in the Alps:

[DIRECT] #CrashA320 - L'@Armee_de_lair et l'@armeedeterrefr viennent en renfort des #Secours - cc @Defense_gouv

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Malaysia Airlines, which had two fatal plane crashes last year, tweeted "We are with you" to Germanwings.

Our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of those onboard Flight 4U9525. We are with you, @Germanwings. #staystrong

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Weather conditions are not believed to be one of the reasons behind Tuesday's crash. Temperatures are expected to rise considerably in the coming few days.

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Bruno Lambert, a local mountain guide, told La Provence newspaper the site of the plane crash is very steep and mountainous, and a place where avalanches occur regularly.

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The owner of a campground near the crash site, Pierre Polizzi, said he heard the plane making curious noises shortly before it crashed."At 11.30, I heard a series of loud noises in the air. There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside, but I couldn't see any fighter planes," he told The Associated Press. "The noise I heard was long — like 8 seconds — as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise after about 30 seconds."Polizzi said the plane crashed about 5-to-8 kilometers (3-to-11 miles) from his place."It's going to be very difficult to get there. The mountain is snowy and very hostile," he said.
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Spain's King Felipe VI (right) has canceled his two-day state visit to France in light of the Germanwings plane crash over the French Alps, Le Figaro reported.

The monarch had arrived in France earlier today, and made the announcement alongside President François Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Francois Mori / AP

The monarch had arrived in France earlier today, and made the announcement alongside President François Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

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Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, posted this statement to its Facebook account:

Facebook: lufthansa
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We express our condolences, affection, and solidarity with the king of Spain and his wife; with President Rajoy and the Spanish people This is a terrible trial. I know that there also victims of other nationalities, particularly Germans, and undoubtedly Turkish people. I would like to express my deepest sympathies to all the families who are grieving or are waiting for news.We have put everything into place to both investigate what caused the accident and to find the victims. The crash happened in a place that was particularly difficult to access and emergency workers could not get there for several hours.
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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted that he is "shocked" at the news of the Germanwings crash in the French Alps.

Consternado por el accidente aéreo en Los Alpes. Una tragedia. Trabajamos con las autoridades francesas y alemanas en la investigación. MR

Translation:

Shocked about the accident in the Alps. A tragedy. We're working with French and German authorities in the investigation.

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The crash site was found by a French military helicopter near the town of Prads-Haute-Bléone, Eric Héraud, a spokesperson for the Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile, told the New York Times.

The pilots, flying at 38,000 feet, reportedly sent a stress signal around 10:47 a.m. local time before plunging to about 5,000 feet, Héraud said.

The plane was flying over the town of Barcelonnette in the Alpes de Haute Provence region.

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Spain's Deputy Prime Minister says 45 passengers on crashed #Germanwings plane are believed to be Spanish

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WDR described the scene at the airport when people heard about the crash: "In the arrival area, families hear about the crash. They start to cry and hug each other."

In der Empfangshalle erfahren die ersten Angehörigen vom Absturz von #4U9525 Menschen liegen sich weinend in den Armen #Duesseldorf

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The model of plane that crashed — the A320 — has been in operation since 1987 and is considered one of the safest passenger planes in the world, an aviation expert told Sky News.

"It is a very good aeroplane," said captain Mike Vivian. "They are operating all over the world and they are intrinsically a short-haul aircraft and have a very good safety record."

Airbus A320 aircraft being defrosted during an exercise at the Roissy-Charles-De-Gaulle airport on Dec. 8, 2014.
Martin Bureau / Getty Images

Airbus A320 aircraft being defrosted during an exercise at the Roissy-Charles-De-Gaulle airport on Dec. 8, 2014.

The model is used extensively by every major airline. The plane is built by Airbus and is made up of narrow-bodied short- to medium-range, twin-engine jets.

The A320 is used mainly on short-haul flights, to connect cities that are between one and five hours apart.

Worldwide there are currently 3,606 A320s in operation, according to the Associated Press.

The A320's safety record is of just 0.14 fatal accidents per million takeoffs, according to Boeing analysis.

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Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Germanwings' parent company, Lufthansa, tweeted a statement saying it does not yet know what has happened to the jet, but that Tuesday is a "dark day" for the company.

"We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525. My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew 1/2

"...on 4U 9525. If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors.“ Carsten Spohr 2/2

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The French prime minister expressed "compassion and solidarity" with the victim's families:

Le drame aérien de ce matin plonge la France dans une profonde tristesse. Compassion et solidarité avec toutes les familles des victimes. MV

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This site, FlightRadar24, shows the plane's path before it crashed:

FlighhtRadar24
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French President Francois Hollande said that there are unlikely to be any survivors after a Germanwings passenger flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed near Digne in the French Alps.

BREAKING—A320: President Hollande says there are no survivors from Bareclona-Dusseldorf crash. - @thespainreport

Addressing media at the French League Against Cancer headquarters, Hollande said it is likely a large majority of the passengers were German.

François #Hollande "il est probable qu'il y ait beaucoup de victimes allemandes" #Crash #Barcelonnette

He added that psychological support would be offered to the families of the victims, and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spain's King Felipe would be visiting France today.

Le Figaro

Hollande added that it was a "period of mourning, a tragedy."

Je veux exprimer aux familles des victimes de cet accident aérien toute ma solidarité. C'est un deuil, une tragédie.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that it is feared that "142 to 150 passengers and crew died."

We "fear that 142 to 150 passengers & crew died" in #Germanwings crash, French PM Manuel Valls says http://t.co/asQsFImtiR

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A passenger plane crashed in the southern French Alps, police told several media outlets.

... As soon as definite information is available, we shall inform the media immediately ...


Reporting by Cecile Dehesdin and Anais Bordages in Paris; Karsten Schmehl in Berlin; Francis Whittaker and Felipe Araujo in London; and Tom Namako, Tasneem Nashrulla, Marie Telling, and David Mack in New York.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back here and at BuzzFeed News on Twitter for updates.

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