Crash scene investigators resume search for clues in plane crash
Crash scene investigators have resumed the search for clues at the scene of the doomed Germanwings flight.
There were apparently no survivors from the 144 passengers - including 16 schoolchildren and two teachers - and six crew on board the Airbus A320, flight 4U 9525, after it went into an eight-minute descent before crashing near Digne in the French Alps.
The aircraft was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it crashed yesterday morning on a mountainside near Meolans-Revels and the popular Pra Loup ski resort.
The black box and flight data recorder - crucial in piecing together what happened - have been found and helicopter search operations resumed at first light this morning in near-freezing conditions.
Last night Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it was "likely that there were some British nationals" on board.
Among those travelling on the plane with her baby was Marina Bandres, who came from Jaca in the Spanish Pyrenees and lived in Britain, Jaca mayor Victor Barrio said. Ms Bandres, reportedly 37, had been attending a funeral in the area for a relative.
Mr Barrio said he did not know if Ms Bandres' husband was on the flight with her and son Julian, who was seven or eight months old.
Also among the passengers were two German opera singers - Dusseldorf-born contralto Maria Radner and bass baritone Oleg Bryjak, who was born in Kazakhstan.
Mr Hammond said: "This is a tragic incident for those involved and their families, I send my deepest condolences to those who have lost family or friends.
"I don't want to speculate on numbers of British nationals involved until we have completed our checks on all the passenger information.
"However, based on the information available to us, it is sadly likely that there were some British nationals on board the flight. We are providing consular assistance and will give further help as more information becomes available.
"We are working closely with the French, German and Spanish authorities, and the airline, to establish the facts.
"The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, and UK disaster victim identification experts, are also standing by to offer assistance to the French authorities if required."
The 16 pupils, from Joseph Konig school in Haltern am See in western Germany, were flying home after a week-long exchange with students at a school near Barcelona. The Spanish children in the exchange are still in Germany.
Those on board the first helicopter to land near the site confirmed there were no survivors, with witnesses describing how the plane had disintegrated with no piece of wreckage bigger than a car.
Germanwings said the captain on board was experienced and had been with the airline and its parent company Lufthansa for more than 10 years and had clocked up 6,000 flying hours on this Airbus model.
Germanwings said the plane had a normal service at Dusseldorf on Monday and its last major check-up had been in summer 2013. There was confusion about whether a distress signal was sent from the aircraft, with even Germanwings unsure.
A spokesman for the French civil aviation authority said the plane did not send a distress signal. He said the plane lost radio contact at 10.30am local time but "never declared a distress alert itself".
He said it was the combination of loss of radio contact and the plane's descent that prompted the control service to declare a distress.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said their thoughts were with the families of the passengers.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister had been informed of the crash and "would wish to express how his thoughts are very much with the families and friends of all of those aboard".
A total of 67 Germans, many Spaniards, two Australians, and one person each from the Netherlands, Turkey, and Denmark were among the victims, according to their respective governments.
Spanish authorities were still trying to determine how many of their citizens were on board.
The Mexican government said there were indications that one Mexican national was also among the victims and two Japanese citizens were also believed to have been on the plane.
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said last night the plane's black box had been found.
Actually orange in colour, the black box comprises the cockpit voice recorder, giving investigators insight into pilots' conversations just before the crash, and the flight data recorder which shows how the workings of the plane were operating.