Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crash: Eyewitnesses recall seeing aircraft skim the mountain tops before it came down

Witness recalls seeing the aircraft and thinking: 'that’s not going to make it over the mountains'

John Lichfield
Tuesday 24 March 2015 15:00
Comments
French emergency services workers gather in Seyne, south-eastern France, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps
French emergency services workers gather in Seyne, south-eastern France, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps

An Airbus A320 passenger jet flew into the side of a mountain in the French Alps after skimming the mountain tops in a steep descent that killed all 150 people on board.

All 144 passengers and six crew aboard the flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf – including a German schoolparty of 16 pupils and two teachers - are believed to have died when it crashed into the side of the 9,000 metre-high Estrop massif 100 miles north of Nice.

The regional newspaper La Provence quoted a local mountain guide as saying: “I took a dozen gendarmes up to the crash scene. From the Mariaud pass, I could see the wreckage. It was obvious to me that the plane had flown into the side of the mountain.”

The owner of a campground near the crash site, Pierre Polizzi, said he heard the plane making curious noises shortly before it crashed.

An helicopter of civil security services flies over the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps

"At 11.30, I heard a series of loud noises in the air. There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside, but I couldn't see any fighter planes," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "The noise I heard was long - like 8 seconds - as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane. There was another long noise after about 30 seconds."

Sébastien Giroud, the owner of a saw-works in Prads-Haute-Bléones, said that he had glimpsed the plane for two or three seconds as it struggled over the village. “It was very low, only 1,500 or 2,000 metres and it seemed to be falling. I said to myself: ‘that’s not going to make it over the mountains. I never heard a thing.”

Dominique, a shop-owner in the hamlet of La Javie, said that he and other villagers had seen the airliner flying unusually low but had not seen or heard the crash.

Eric Mauger, a goat farmer in Prads-Haute-Bléone, the nearest hamlet to the crash scene, said that the plane came down high on the mountains well-above the snow line.

“We are the nearest to the catastrophe and we saw and heard nothing,” he said. “As the crow flies it is not far, but we saw nothing, not even smoke.”

Relatives of passengers killed in Germanwings plane crash arrive at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany

Bruno Lambert, a mountain guide in the same village, said: “The plane came down in very steep mountain terrain, which is plagued by avalanches at this time of year. There was an avalanche just ten minutes ago.”

A woman living in Verlet three kilometres from the crash said: “I heard a dull noise, like an avalanche starting or like the explosions they use to force avalanches. Then several fighter planes flew over the village, probably looking for the wreckage.”

“Around mid-day I started to see smoke rising…Some village people climbed up to the Mariaud pass and they could see the wreckage from there.”

Flight 4U 9525 vanished from radar screens at about 10.47 am local time, 46 minutes after take-off from Barcelona. French officials said that debris had been found on the 2,961 metre-high Estrop massif near the small town of Barcelonette in the Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence.

French aviation officials denied earlier reports that the stricken aircraft had sent out a “mayday” signal. They said that it was French air traffic control which issued the distress signal when the plane disappeared from radar screens.

The French Prime Minister Maunel Valls, addressing parliament this afternoon, said: “no explanation for the crash can be excluded”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in