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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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Some data recovered - but as yet we don't have "the slightest explanation" for the crash

The plane, carrying 144 passengers, plunged for eight minutes before hitting the side of a mountain – with no survivors.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 10.15pm

FRENCH INVESTIGATORS SAY they have succeeded in extracting “usable data” from the first black box recovered from the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps.

Remi Jouty, head of French air crash investigation agency BEA, said there was still not “the slightest explanation” at this stage on the reasons for the crash.

“We have just succeeded in extracting usable data from the cockpit voice recorder,” he said, referring to the black box that records sounds and conversations from the cockpit.

But he said the data had only been retrieved in the last few minutes before his press conference, and investigators had not yet analysed the recordings.

He ruled out the possibility of an explosion, saying “the plane was flying right to the end,” but could not put forward any other theories.

“At this stage, clearly, we are not in a position to have the slightest explanation or interpretation on the reasons that could have led this plane to descend… or the reasons why it did not respond to attempts to contact it by air traffic controllers,” said Jouty.

He said he was optimistic that the second black box, which records technical flight data, will soon be found given that the debris is spread over a relatively limited area.

French President Francois Hollande said earlier that the casing of the second black box had been found, but not the box itself.

Source: Claude Paris/AP/PA

Meanwhile, the leaders of France, Germany and Spain visited a makeshift rescue base near the crash site earlier today.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew over the crash site to see the devastation for themselves before meeting rescue workers outside the crisis centre set up yesterday.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also visited the centre to be briefed on the gruelling rescue operation in difficult mountain terrain where Flight 4U9525 crashed, scattering debris over a wide area.

Buffeted by strong mountain winds, the ashen-faced leaders spent several minutes inspecting a line-up of blue-uniformed rescue workers, chatting intently with the help of interpreters.

“My deepest sympathies with the families and all my thanks for the friendship of the people of this region and in France,” wrote Merkel in a book of condolence.

Source: Claude Paris/AP/PA

French police set up road blocks near the crash site, ordering all non-official vehicles to turn around, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Just beyond lay a steep and broken landscape littered with the shattered pieces of what was Flight 4U9525.

“It’s a zone that is very difficult to access, very slippery. There was rain and snow overnight. So we need to secure the zone before the investigators begin their work,” a spokesman for the French interior ministry, Pierre-Henry Brandet, told reporters.

“We are not in a race against time,” he said. “We need to move forward methodically.”

The plane was “totally destroyed,” a local member of parliament who flew over the site said, describing the scene as “horrendous.”

“The biggest body parts we identified are no bigger than a briefcase,” one investigator said.

More than 300 policemen and 380 firefighters have been assigned the grisly task of searching the site.

Source: Claude Paris/AP/PA

France Plane Crash Video reporters work in Seyne les Alpes, French Alps. Source: Laurent Cipriani/AP/PA

The airline confirmed the Airbus A320 involved in the crash had been grounded for an hour for repairs the day before it flew, according to The Telegraph.

They said the repair was not “safety-related” and was just to fix a noise the nose-wheel landing door was making. The aircraft was flying again from 10am on Monday and completed several flights safely after the repair and before the accident.

Reports today suggested Germanwings crews were refusing to fly because of concerns over safety but a spokesperson for the pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit has insisted the decision was made because friends and colleagues of the workers have died.

“That is such a heavy emotional burden that it’s better not to get into the cockpit,” he said on public television.

Germany France Plane Crash School children bring candles in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern, western Germany. Source: Martin Meissner/PA

Victims

The plane was carrying six crew and 144 passengers, including 16 German teenagers returning home from a school trip.

Opera singers Oleg Bryjak, 54, and Maria Radner, 33, were also on board, flying to their home city of Duesseldorf.

In Spain, meanwhile, a minute’s silence was observed at noon at countless points around the country, including both houses of parliament in Madrid and public offices.

France Plane Crash German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, French President Francois Hollande, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speak with rescue workers. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Safety record

Germanwings, the growing low-cost subsidiary of the prestigious Lufthansa carrier, had an unblemished safety record.

Weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash, with conditions calm at the time, French weather officials said.

It was the deadliest air crash on the French mainland since 1974 when a Turkish Airlines plane crashed, killing 346 people.

Victims were also confirmed from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Holland, Israel, Japan, Mexico and the United States, according to officials.

- © AFP 2015 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Daragh Brophy.

Read: Scale of horror emerges as questions remain over Alps plane crash>

More: No obvious reasons why plane crashed into the Alps>

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