Germanwings Airbus A320 Crashes in France, 150 Feared Dead
By Carlo Angerer, Alastair Jamieson and Alexander Smith
A passenger plane carrying 150 people crashed in a remote part of the French Alps on Tuesday, officials said, warning that there are not expected to be any survivors.
French President Francois Hollande called the crash of the Airbus A320 a "tragedy" and said the wreckage was in a hard-to-reach area not far from the town of Barcelonette. Rescue teams and choppers flocked to the site, as aerial images began to emerge of the crash zone.
"We saw an aircraft that had literally been ripped apart,the bodies are in a state of destruction, there is not one intact piece of wing or fuselage,'' Bruce Robin, prosecutor for the city of Marseille, told Reuters after flying over the crash site in a helicopter.
Germanwings Flight 4U9525 flight left Barcelona at 9:55 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) en route for Dusseldorf with 144 passengers and six crew members on board.
The airline — a budget carrier run by Lufthansa — said it did not yet have information on what caused the accident but that the 24-year-old Airbus had descended rapidly after reaching its cruising height and continued losing altitude for eight minutes.
"The aircraft's contact with French radar, French air traffic controllers, ended at 10:53 a.m. at an altitude of about 6,000 feet. The plane then crashed," Germanwings' Managing Director Thomas Winkelmann told a press conference. However, tracking sites including Flightradar24 showed a similar eight-minute descent but said last contact with the flight was at 10:40 local time (6:40 a.m. ET).
There were conflicting reports over whether the flight sent out a distress call. Weather conditions in the area of the crash were good at the time the plane went down. Germanwings confirmed that the captain of the plane had logged more than 6,000 flight hours on the Airbus.
France's Interior Ministry said "important aerial resources" and medical teams were being mobilized in the area of the wreckage, and officials in the nearby town of Digne urged people not to approach the crash zone. The gymnasium in another nearby town, Seyne-les-Alpes, was being set up to take in bodies or survivors from the crash, the town confirmed to NBC News.
Germanwings confirmed that two babies were on board but was not immediately able to provide a breakdown of nationalities or passengers' identities. Local officials told NBC News that 16 students and two teachers from a high school in Haltern, 40 miles from Dusseldorf, were on the plane.