A German commercial jet for Germanwings Airlines, a subsidiary of Lufthansa carrying 150 people aboard into a sudden, steep and horrifying eight-minute descent Tuesday before slamming into the rugged terrain of the French Alps, authorities said.
French President Francois Hollande said there aren’t likely to be any survivors.
“It’s a tragedy on our soil,” he said. “I want to express all my solidarity to the families of the victims of this air accident. This is a bereavement, a tragedy.”
One of the black boxes have been found by the hundreds of search and rescue personnel that were dispatched to the area. The first responders were let down from helicopter cables into 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 news service after flying over the area.
Germanwings Flight 9525 departed Barcelona, Spain, for a two-hour flight to Duesseldorf at 10:01 a.m. local time — more than 20 minutes late. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Airbus A320 at 10:53 a.m., airline CEO Thomas Winkelmann said.
A distress signal was issued after air traffic control lost contact with the plane and recognized the steep descent.
Winkelmann said 144 passengers — including two babies — and six crewmembers were aboard. Sixteen students and two teachers returning from an exchange program in Spain also were on board, Germany’s DPA news agency reported.
Winkelmann said the sudden descent lasted about eight minutes and that air-traffic controllers lost contact with the jet at about 6,000 feet. He added that the pilot had more than 10 years’ experience, and that the plane was inspected last summer.
“All employees of Germanwings and Lufthansa are deeply saddened,” Winkelmann said. “Their thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew.”
Our prayers go out to all the families as well that are involved in this tragic event.