Mar 25, 2015 11:53 AM

The Latest: German students return from Spain after crash

The Associated Press

4:50 p.m. (1550 GMT, 11:50 a.m. EDT)

A second group of German exchange students visiting the northeastern Spanish town of Llinars del Valles where 16 high school students that were on the crashed plane stayed has left for Germany as planned Wednesday.

But some decided to travel by train instead of by plane following the accident.

Llinars del Valles mayor Marti Pujol i Casals said the Institut Ginebro school had informed him that the students had been asked which way they wanted to travel and that some had decided to fly as originally planned while others decided to take the train. He gave no details as to how many traveled by train.

The students were attending a different school in the town from the one attended by the students killed Tuesday.


4:40 p.m. (1540 GMT, 11:40 a.m. EDT)

Two Americans presumed to have died in the plane crash in the southern French Alps include a U.S. government contractor and her daughter, according to a person close to the family.

The mother was identified as Yvonne Selke of Nokesville, Virginia, a longtime and highly regarded employee of Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in Washington, and her daughter, whose name wasn't immediately available.

Selke worked with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's satellite mapping office, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person wasn't authorized to release information to reporters.

A person who answered the phone at Selke's home said the family wasn't providing any information.

A Booz Allen spokeswoman declined to comment, noting that Germanwings had not yet disclosed identities of the crash victims.

By Associated Press writer Ted Bridis in Washington.


4:10 p.m. (1510 GMT, 11:10 a.m. EDT)

Spain's government has raised the number of Spanish victims in the crash from 49 to at least 51.

Earlier Wednesday, the government put the number of Spanish victims at 49, but later issued a statement saying two more Spanish victims have been identified, bringing the number to 51.

Germanwings said Wednesday said that of 125 passengers identified, 35 were Spaniards. It said some of the 125 could have dual nationalities.


3:55 p.m. (1455 GMT, 10:55 a.m. EDT)

Investigators will use the cockpit voice and flight data recorders to map out and focus their work, says Alan E. Diehl, a former air safety investigator.

"Both will point you in directions of what is critical," Diehl says. "Based on what you learn from the recorders, you might focus on key pieces of wreckage."

The four possible causes of any crash are human error, mechanical problems, weather, criminal activity or a combination of two or more. Diehl says investigators will work backward, starting by eliminating what didn't happen.


3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT, 10:45 a.m. EDT)

Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that the foreign ministry says two Iranian journalists died in the Germanwings plane crash.

They were identified as Milad Hojatoleslami, who worked for semi-official Tasnim news agency and Hossein Javadi, a journalist at the Vatan-e-Emrouz daily.

IRNA reported that the pair was in the Catalan capital to cover the "El Clasico" soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid.


2:40 p.m. (1340 GMT, 9:40 a.m. EDT)

Britain's Foreign Office identified three British victims:

Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio, 37, and her son Julian, 7 months.

Paul Andrew Bramley, 28.

Lopez-Belio's husband, Pawel Pracz of Manchester, England, said his Spanish-born wife and son had traveled to Spain for a family funeral.

"She bought the tickets at the last moment, and decided to return to Manchester quickly as she wanted to return to her daily routine as soon as possible," he said.

Bramley was studying hospitality and hotel management at Ceasar Ritz College in Lucerne and about to start an internship on April 1. He was flying back to Britain via Dusseldorf to meet with his mother.

"Paul was a kind, caring and loving son," his mother, Carol Bramley, said in a statement. "He was the best son, he was my world."


2:25 p.m. (1325 GMT, 9:25 a.m. EDT)

The leaders of Germany, France and Spain gathered in the French Alps near the site of a German budget airlines crash to pay homage to the 150 victims.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived on a helicopter Wednesday on a mountain meadow whipped by strong winds. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also joined them at the scene, in the town of Seynes-les-Alpes.

Most of the passengers on the Barcelona-Duesseldorf flight Tuesday were German and Spanish, though people of many other nationalities were also aboard.

Hollande praised all the rescue workers who have been trying to retrieve debris and bodies from the hard-to-reach site.


2 p.m. (1300 GMT, 9 a.m. EDT)

Spain says it will send a six-member scientific police team to France to help with victim identification in the Germanwings plane crash, as soon as the bodies start to be bought down from the crash site.

Interior Ministry official Francisco Martinez also said six Spanish psychologists will be sent to the town of Seyne-Les-Alpes near the crash site and five to Marseille to help tend to victims' families.

He said Spain has also offered to send army search and rescue teams if needed. Tuesday's crash killed all 150 people aboard the flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.


1:50 p.m. (1250 GMT, 8:50 a.m. EDT)

U.S. President Barack Obama has called Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to express his condolences following the crash of the Germanwings plane in which at least 35 Spaniards died.

Obama conveyed "his condolences and those of the American people to Spain and to the families lost on the flight," the U.S. Embassy in Madrid said. Obama also offered assistance from American officials.

Speaking in Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron also offered condolences on Tuesday's crash that killed 150.

"It is heartbreaking to hear about the schoolchildren, the babies, the families whose lives have been brought to an end," he said.

The British government believes three British nationals died, and is checking to see if there might have been more.


1:25 p.m. (1225 GMT, 8:25 a.m. EDT)

Germanwings has had to cancel a few flights since the crash because some crews declared themselves unfit to fly after losing colleagues.

A flight from Duesseldorf to Barcelona on Wednesday was scratched, along with some from Duesseldorf and Stuttgart on Tuesday.

Chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said some cockpit and cabin crews "didn't want to fly today or yesterday for emotional reasons."

He added that "the management completely understands this because we are a small family everyone knows everybody inside Germanwings so it is a big shock for employees."


1:15 p.m. (1215 GMT, 8:15 a.m. EDT)

Three generations of one family a schoolgirl, her mother and grandmother were on the Germanwings plane that crashed, according to a town outside Barcelona.

A statement from Sant Cugat del Valles town hall didn't provide their names.

The girl was a student of a middle school for children aged 10 to 11 at Santa Isabel school in Sant Cugat.

By Associated Press writer Jorge Sainz in Madrid.


1 p.m. (1200 GMT, 8 a.m. EDT)

France's aviation investigation bureau has released photos of the badly mangled voice data recorder from the Germanwings flight that crashed into an Alpine mountainside.

The images show the metal black box which is actually a bright orange-red twisted, dented and scarred by the impact of the crash.

The cockpit voice recorder was recovered on Tuesday, and French officials say they are working to pull its data.


12:50 p.m. (1150 GMT, 7:50 a.m. EDT)

Germanwings' chief executive says the airline's current information is that 72 Germans, 35 Spanish citizens and two Americans were on board the flight that crashed in southern France.

Thomas Winkelmann told reporters in Cologne on Wednesday that the list isn't yet final because the company is still trying to contact relatives of 27 victims.

There were two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran and Venezuela. One victim each came from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel.

Winkelmann says in some cases victims' nationality isn't entirely clear, in part because of dual citizenship.


12:20 p.m. (1120 GMT, 7:20 a.m. EDT)

Executives, pilots and employees of German airline Lufthansa have held a minute of silence at company headquarters for the 150 people who died in the Germanwings crash.

The Airbus A320 flown by Lufthansa's low-cost division crashed on Tuesday in the Alps in southern France.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, himself a pilot, observed the ceremony Wednesday at the company's main base. He said it was "a very emotional moment, to stand there with so many colleagues in uniform."

He said the company's first priority was helping the relatives of those who died.

He said it was "inexplicable for us, how an airplane in good mechanical condition, with two experienced, Lufthansa-trained pilots, could encounter such a tragedy from cruising altitude."


12:15 p.m. (1115 GMT, 7:15 a.m. EDT)

Germany's top security official says there is no evidence at this stage that foul play was involved in the plane crash in southern France.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that "according to the latest information there is no hard evidence that the crash was intentionally brought about by third parties."

He says that authorities are nevertheless investigating all possible causes for the crash of a Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Spain on Tuesday in which 144 passengers and six crew members died.

De Maiziere appealed to media to refrain from speculation about the causes of the crash.


12 p.m. (1100 GMT, 7 a.m. EDT)

The principal of the German high school where 16 students and two teachers died in the Germanwings crash says "nothing will be the way it was at our school anymore."

Ulrich Wessel, principal of the Joseph Koenig High School, said Wednesday that when the first call came about the crash, he hoped that the students had missed the plane.

But the regional governor informed local officials that they were on the passenger list.

Wessel says one of the teachers who was on the plane had been married for less than six months.

He said: "It is a tragedy that makes one speechless and we will have to learn to deal with it."


11:50 a.m. (1050 GMT, 6:50 a.m. EDT)

In Spain, flags flew at half-staff on government buildings and a minute of silence was held at legislative and government buildings across the country in memory of the Germanwings crash victims. Spain's national parliament canceled its normal Wednesday session out of respect.

Barcelona's Liceu opera house held two minutes of silence at noon in homage to two opera singers Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner who took the flight after performing at the theater last weekend.

In the small northeastern town of Llinars del Valles, parents and children attended a memorial service at the Giola Institute for the 16 German high school students and their two teachers who had been on an exchange program there for a week before boarding the plane. A minute of silence was held at the town hall at midday.


11:40 a.m. (1040 GMT, 6:40 a.m. EDT)

A French prosecutor says a joint investigative team will seek details about the Germanwings plane that crashed.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin says French, Spanish and German authorities would formally request information Wednesday about the plane's maintenance and the conditions of its flight.


10:10 a.m. (0910 GMT, 5:10 a.m. EDT)

Students at the main high school in the western German town of Haltern are gathering by an ever-growing memorial of candles and flowers, weeping and hugging as they mourn the loss of 16 classmates and two teachers who died in a crash in the French Alps.

Lara Beer says her best friend, Paula, was aboard the aircraft.

Wiping tears from her eyes, the 14-year-old Beer says she was waiting for the train her friend was supposed to be on, but went home when she saw Paula wasn't on it.

She says: "That's when my parents told me Paula was dead."

School classes have been cancelled but students are being encouraged to come in to talk with counsellors and friends. The crash of the Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf killed 150 people.


10 a.m. (0900 GMT, 5 a.m. EDT)

A Spanish school says a second group of about 30 German exchange students is in the Spanish town of Llinars del Valles, where 16 high schoolers stayed for a week before boarding a plane that crashed in the Alps.

An administrator for the Institut Ginebro says the students are from the Hamburg area and are scheduled to leave Llinars del Valles within hours, but that teachers are considering delaying the departure in the wake of the crash. That's a different school than the one the students killed Tuesday had been attending.

The administrator spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because she was not authorized to speak publicly.

By Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson in Llinars del Valle.


8:55 a.m. (0755 GMT, 3:55 a.m. EDT)

The mayor of a town close to the site of the plane crash in the French Alps that killed 150 says bereaved families are expected to begin arriving in the town Wednesday morning.

Francis Hermitte, mayor of Seyne-Les-Alpes, says said local families are offering to host the families because of a shortage of rooms to rent. Leaders of France, Germany and Spain will also meet with them in a makeshift chapel set up in a gymnasium, Hermitte said.

Marion Cotterill, head of civil protection there, says the priority is to welcome families humanely. "We offer a hot drink, a smile, a warm regard, or psychological counseling if asked for."

Interior Ministry spokesman Paul-Henry Brandet says overnight rain and snow in the crash zone has made the rocky ravine slippery, increasing the difficulty of reaching the steep and remote area.


8:50 a.m. (0750 GMT; 3:50 a.m. EDT)

An Israeli citizen who lived in Spain was among the victims of the French plane crash, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Eyal Baum was 39 and lived in Barcelona with his wife, his sister, Liat Baum, told Army Radio.

"He was amazing, with a winning smile. Whoever met him fell in love with him from the first moment," Baum said, crying.

"The thought of what he went through in those moments is very difficult."

The crash Tuesday of the Germanwings Airbus 320 killed 150 people. There were no survivors.

A delegation from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement Chabad is traveling to the crash site to help in rescue efforts, Chabad Rabbi Eliyahu Attia told Army Radio.


8:00 a.m. (0700 GMT, 3:00 a.m. EDT)

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says the black box recovered from the crash site has been damaged but is believed to be "useable." He says it is the voice and cockpit sound recorder.

Cazeneuve told RTL radio on Wednesday that investigators were working to pull information from the black box voice recorder.

Although officials have been firm that no cause has been ruled out, Cazeneuve said terrorism is not considered likely.

Segolene Royal, another top French official, says the seconds between 10:30 a.m. and 10:31 a.m. are considered vital to the investigation into the crash. She says the pilot stopped responding after 10:31.


6:30 a.m. (0530 GMT, 1:30 a.m. EDT)

Helicopter operations have resumed over mountainsides in the French Alps where a German jetliner crashed, killing all 150 people on board.

Under overcast skies, with temperatures just above freezing, helicopters resumed flights Wednesday over a widely scattered debris field.

A black box has been recovered from the scene. The Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, was less than an hour from landing in Duesseldorf on a flight from Barcelona Tuesday when it unexpectedly went into a rapid descent. The pilots did not send out a distress call and had lost radio contact with their control center, France's aviation authority said.


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