Germanwings plane crash: School mourns its 16 victims

Pupils had been returning from a one-week visit to Barcelona

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The Independent Online

Pupils and parent held hands as they stood before a sea of candles outside the Josef Koenig school in Haltern am See this monring. Many wept as they remembered the 14 teenagers and two teachers from the school who were killed in Tuesday's German wings air crash.

The pupils, all students of Spanish, had been returning from a one-week school exchange visit to Barcelona when the crash happened shortly before 11 am on Tuesday morning.

Haltern am See, a small town north of Duesseldorf was in a state of shock this morning. Black flags were being flown from cars, while at the town hall the state flag flew at halfmast.

"In many families the world has simply stopped turning," said Bodo Klimpel, the mayor. "The citizens of this town are numbed by grief," he added.

Photograph of victims, flowers and candles stand outside the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium

Arron Feldmann, 16, a school pupil was told about the crash over the school intercom system: "The headmaster came on and told us something bad had happened and we all went out into the courtyard. When we heard the news we were just completely shocked," he told The Independent.

"Then it seemed like something out of a horror movie, people just started crying and hugging each other, others began running away from the school. It was if they were panicked," he said.

Arron said two of the girls had been friends of his. "I still cannot believe they're dead. It is all like something out of a dream," he said.

Pupils and parents attended a remembrance service at the school this monring. Sixteen candles flickered in the school auditorium in memory of the victims. Outside the school, a sea of candles and flowers had been placed in front of the main entrance.

"We are all speechless," said Ulrich Wessel, the headmaster. "We have yet to come to terms with what has happened. These are the darkest days in the whole history of the school."

Frank Gebhard, a parent of two children at the school, clutched a gravelight as he made his way towards the building. "I just had to come here and put down a candle. I feel so sad for the parents of the dead pupils," he said.

Candles sit on a paper reading "in silent memory, class 9a/9c" in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium

Andreas Wins, the father of a 10-year-old girl at the school was equally distressed: "It all happened so quickly. We can hardly take in what has hit us."

The school authorities said they would continue to keep the school open but counsellors and teachers had been instructed to give pupil as much time as they needed to cope with their grief.

"It is important that the pupils can be together to share and get over what happened," said Sylvia Löhrmmann, schools minister for the state of Northrhine Westfalia.