Germanwings crash: Woman 'posed as school victim's cousin to get free flights to French Alps'

Lufthansa alerted police after becoming suspicious and she could be prosecuted

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The Independent Online

A woman who allegedly claimed to be related to a Germanwings disaster victim to get free flights to France is being investigated by police.

She reportedly posed as a cousin of one of the two teachers killed alongside 16 students from the Joseph Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern on their way home from an exchange trip.

Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, said the unnamed woman took advantage of free flights it offered to the French Alps in the wake of last month’s disaster.

They were intended to allow families to reach the crash site, mourn and get up-to-date information as the recovery operation continued following the disaster on 24 March, which killed all 150 people on board.

The Halterner Zeitung newspaper, based in the town still in mourning for its 18 lost residents, reported that the woman from the western German town of Beverungen flew to the region twice at Lufthansa's expense.

Markus Tewes, a police spokesperson in the town of Hoexter, confirmed officers were investigating possible fraud and would question the passenger after being alerted by Lufthansa.

The airline said it was looking into what appears to be a “regrettable isolated case,” but did not give details.

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Students gather at a memorial in front of the Joseph Koenig Gymnasium school in Haltern am See

Lufthansa spokesperson Helmut Tolksdorf told Bild: “We deeply regret that the family is being disturbed further in this difficult time.

“To help all relatives with as little bureaucracy as possible, we did not want to use strict controls in advance.

“That's why there were only simple checks on whether passengers’ details sounded plausible.”

If the woman was hoping for a free holiday, she was disappointed. Because she posed as a bereaved relative, she was taken to the crash site in Seyne-les-Alpes, a memorial in Le Vernet and was given psychological counselling.

 

Halterner Zeitung reported that Lufthansa because suspicious when she made a second trip during the Easter holidays.

The teacher she allegedly claimed to be related to was one of two who died alongside 16 students, aged 15 and 16, as they travelled home on the Barcelona to Dusseldorf flight following a week-long Spanish exchange trip.

The father of the killed teacher, who is a police officer in Haltern, told the newspaper that the woman is not even a friend or acquaintance.

As well as the free flights, Lufthansa offered families up to 50,000 euros (£36,000) in financial assistance immediately after the crash and could later face huge compensation claims.

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Photograph of victims, flowers and candles stand outside the Joseph Koenig Gymnasium, which lost 16 students and two teachers on flight 9525

It provided help for bereaved relatives at centres in Barcelona, Düsseldorf and Marseille and has since established a Family Assistance Centre in the French city as a central hub.

A total of 90 staff members have been assigned to offer care and to assist them if they wish to visit the Seyne-les-Alpes accident area. More than 200 relatives and friends of the victims had been supported by the start of this month.

Work continues at the crash site, where co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately ploughed the Airbus A320 into the mountainside at 430mph after locking the captain out of the cockpit.

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Andreas Lubitz deliberately downed the plane after locking the captain out of the cockpit

Investigators have still not confirmed a motive for the 27-year-old’s apparent murder-suicide, despite reports of previous treatment for depression and possible eyesight problems that could have threatened his flying career.

Going under the username “Skydevil”, he had searched Google for suicide methods and information on cockpit door security in the days leading up to the disaster.

Germanwings and Lufthansa are organising the removal of the wreckage and clearing up any environmental damage in the Alps, analysing soil samples and plants to ensure no traces of fuel or debris remain.

Work at the site could take between six and 18 months to complete.

Additional reporting by AP

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