The grim reality of crash site

Written By komlim puldel on Rabu, 25 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Wreckage ... part of the Germanwings Airbus A320 vertical stabilizer at the crash site in the French Alps above the south-eastern town of Seyne. Picture: AFP/Denis Bois/Gripmedia/AFP TV Source: AFP

Search and recovery efforts of crashed Germanwings flight 4U9525 resume in the French Alps. Julie Noce reports.

AS THE sun broke over the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps this morning, so too it dawned on authorities for the first time the grim task scattered before them.

Such is the devastation, French authorities have taken to using everyday images to describe the scene to the public — fuselage wreckage is no bigger than a family car, body parts no bigger than briefcases, the scattering of the scene the size of two football stadiums.

Up to 640 French gendarme and specialist fire and rescue personnel yesterday began their first full-day probe at the site of the downed Germanwings Flight 9525 which fell from the sky on Tuesday, killing all 150 passengers and crew on-board including at least two Australians.

Search mission ... search and rescue personnel making their way to the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320. Picture: AFP/Denis Bois/Gripmedia/AFP TV Source: AFP

Devastation ... pieces of the crashed Germanwings Airbus A320 scattered across the mountains. Picture: AFP/Denis Bois/Gripmedia/AFP TV Source: AFP

The mother and son from Victoria, Carol and Greig Friday, had been enjoying a holiday of a lifetime in Barcelona before they boarded the Airbus A320 aircraft for the 10am flight from the Spanish city to Dusseldorf in Germany.

The flight never made it over the Alps, having just reached cruising altitude of 38,000ft before one minute later plummeting for the next eight minutes to 6,550ft and then ploughing into the side of the snow-capped range.

Greig Friday. Picture: Twitter Source: Supplied

Carol Friday. Picture: Twitter Source: Supplied

Analysts who retrieved one of the two black box flight recorders are yet to say what caused the crash but suggested the rate of descent must have been a catastrophic failure. It has also been revealed the pilots were most likely so busy trying to save their aircraft they did not make any distress signal or call. Weather was fine and not deemed a factor to the crash.

The site of the wreckage is a remote corner of the French Alps, in a deep broken moonscape-like ravine with everything on flight 9525 scattered over the whole area.

"It's big, bigger than big," Regional Gendarme commander and site operations and investigation co-ordinator General David Galtier told News Corp Australia, describing the scene and task ahead.

Germanwings crash ... Gendarmes Regional commander General David Galtier at Seyne-les-alpes. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied

The general says while his troops could reach the site on foot in two hours, the terrain was just too harsh and overnight snow and rain made it dangerous. Instead, a mixed squadron of rescue, commercial and military helicopters propping at a small aerodrome near the Seyne-les-Alps village ran an all-day relay ferrying personnel into the mountains to preserve the site and begin the gruesome task of retrieving the bodies of the victims.

Gen Galtier said as well as his 600 personnel now in the area he had a small team of psychologists, doctors and priests to help the victims' families who began their journey into the mountains to find answers.

Meeting point ... Gendarmes, firefighters and rescue crew at the hall where families of the Germanwings crash will be received in Seyne-les-Alpes. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: News Corp Australia

They are coming from all corners of the world apparently with manifests now revealing the passengers on the doomed low-cost German airliner included 67 Germans, a large number of Spaniards maybe at least 40, two each from Australia, Japan and Colombia, three Kazaks, three British and one each from the Netherlands, Israel, Denmark, Turkey and Mexico.

"The most important for us is to preserve the zone and find the bodies, that is the most important thing for us," he said.

"The wreckage area is very large, it is difficult to get there and work there and that is why we have specialist (gendarme) personnel here. The area I would say that we are dealing with is the size of two football stadiums.

"It will be a very, very long operation and investigation to find out what happened. We have to go in there (site) little by little, slowly, this is important for our investigation."

General Galtier said it was a French operation but had international cooperation and coordination with the German and Spanish authorities and others.

He said at the foremost of the minds of his men and women was also the families. He said they were expecting many would come to the coordination and command staging post at Seyne-les-Alpes and want explanations.

"We want to explain to them what happened but also to assure them that we are finding their loved ones," he said.

He said he would be showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande first hand view of the site and explain with detailed maps of the extensive nature of operations. The leaders were also expected to have a private meeting with some of the victims' families.

Authorities said the retrieval of the victims' bodies is expected to take several days, making positive identities could take week although many relatives of the victims have already provided DNA swab samples to help in the identification process.

Reports out of Germany suggest the flight was grounded just 24 hours earlier with technical problems centred around its landing gear. Neither the airline nor air crash investigators would confirm or deny the reports.

Spokespeople for the airline yesterday said they had not even yet established why the flight took off half an hour behind schedule. Yesterday many Germanwings aircrew refused to fly, stranding passengers in both Germany and the UK, claiming they had safety fears.

The flight of the Germanwings, owned and operated by Lufthansa, was carrying six crew and 144 passengers, including 16 German teenagers returning home from a school exchange trip. Their hometown held a memorial yesterday.

"This is certainly the darkest day in the history of our city," said a tearful Bodo Klimpel, the town's mayor. "It is the worst thing you can imagine."

Spain declared three days mourning for their dead as Spanish King Felipe cut short his first state visit to France.

Among the dead also, opera singers Oleg Bryjak, 54, and Maria Radner, 33, flying to their home city of Dusseldorf. Radner was travelling with her husband and baby, one of two infants on board the plane.

The doomed aircraft's last routine check was March 23 in Germany by Lufthansa technicians with a major overhauling check performed in 2013.

The Captain of the doomed flight had more than 10 years flying experience and 6000 flight hours of this particular model.

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