Germanwings crash: Recovery of victims' bodies could take months because impact buried them

Force of the 430mph crash buried debris metres into the mountainside

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The Independent Online

It could take months to remove the remains of the Germanwings plane crash victims because the force of the impact buried them metres below the ground, recovery workers have warned.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz ploughed the Airbus A320 into the French Alps at 430mph on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board instantly.

Footage of the mountainside, near picturesque ski resorts, show it littered with unrecognisable fragments of debris from the plane and passengers’ belongings.

The removal of body parts strewn across acres will take months, a police officer told French newspaper Le Figaro.

Even though visible wreckage spreads across the mountainside, much is “buried several meters deep” because of the speed of the plane and loose soil, a operation technician told the newspaper.

Firefighters with specialist equipment intended for the aftermath of earthquakes have joined the investigators, police and experts at the crash site.

By Friday, up to 600 remains had been found and police were using DNA samples taken from objects like toothbrushes in attempts to identify them.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said yesterday that 78 distinct DNA strands had been isolated but refused to confirm reports that Mr Lubitz’s remains had been identified.

Colonel Patrick Touron said they had not “found a single body intact”, while other rescue workers described “pulverised” debris creating a “picture of horror”.

Five days after the disaster, victims’ families are continuing to arrive at nearby Le Vernet and Seyne-les-Alpes, where chapels and mortuaries have been set up. More than 325 family members have arrived so far and are being supported by Germanwings.

Volunteer translators and counsellors have flown in from some of the 18 countries who lost citizens on flight 9525 to help them through the process, while local people have offered to take relatives in.

Rescue workers and gendarmerie continue their search operation near the site of the Germanwings plane crash on 29 March

Seyne-les-Alpes, turned into the headquarters for relief operations, is expected to return some of its requisitioned buildings to their previous uses over the coming week.

Investigators are focusing on the psychological state of 27-year-old Mr Lubitz to find out “what could have destabilised him or driven him to such an act”.

Officials said evidence from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder indicated that he locked the door after the captain left on a toilet break and set the plane to descend from cruising altitude to 100ft in order for it to crash into the Alps.

The revelation that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane has put pilots under intense scrutiny

A transcript showed he sat in silence and ignored alarms and contact attempts from air traffic controllers as the captain tried to break back in, shouting “open the damned door”. The last sound heard on the recording is the sound of passengers screaming.

German prosecutors said Mr Lubitz was hiding an illness and sick notes from a doctor showing he should have been off work on the day of the crash, but would not confirm reports about failing eyesight and depression.

Additional reporting by PA