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Germanwings crash: chronology of events

Peter HilleApril 17, 2015

In a memorial service in Cologne, relatives are paying tribute to Germanwings crash victims. Four weeks after 150 people died in the flight 9525 crash, DW's chronology sums up the facts of the tragedy.

Germanwings / Absturz / Wrackteil
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The crash in the Alps

Germanwings Flight 9525 is en route from Barcelona in Spain to Düsseldorf in Germany when the airliner crashes in the French Alps on March 24. The Airbus A 320 passenger plane descends for eight minutes before it plows into a mountainside close to the village of Le Vernet. The cause of the accident is not immediately clear.

A bad suspicion

One day later, on March 25, prosecutors in Marseille officially start investigating the cause of the crash. On March 26, Brice Robin, the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, says that copilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane intentionally. He draws this conclusion from an analysis of the plane's voice recorder. Robin adds that Lubitz had locked the flight's captain out of the cockpit before starting the descent. Almost four weeks later, investigators have still not established a clear motive for the probable mass murder.

Germanwings Trauer Haltern am See
Haltern pays tribute to those perished onboard the Germanwings flight.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Kusch

Mourning the victims

People from 21 different countries were among the victims of the Germanwings crash, most of them from Germany. The German government declares a national mourning period from March 25 to 27. Flags are flying at half mast in the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had visited recovery workers in Seyne-les-Alpes on Day One after the tragedy and payed tribute to the victims without being able to access the actual site of the crash in the mountains.

Families and friends of the victims travel to the French Alps via Marseille, where Germanwings establishes a help center. A provisional memorial is erected in Le Vernet not far from the crash site. Among the victims commemorated there are 16 pupils and two teachers from Haltern in North Rhine-Westphalia, who had been returning from a high school exchange trip. On March 27, a memorial service is held in Haltern. German President Joachim Gauck is among the attendees.

Recovery in rugged terrain

About one thousand search workers from police, mountain rescue and military units are immediately deployed to the crash site. They first focus is on finding the plane's black boxes and recovering DNA of passengers who were aboard the plane. The rugged, almost inaccessible terrain makes this a very difficult task. On April 4, DNA samples of all 150 victims have been collected. By this time, search crews have also brought 80 percent of the plane's debris to a hall in Seyne-les-Alpes. They estimate that the search operation will continue for two to three weeks.

Frankreich Absturzstelle Airbus Germanwings Trümmer Bergungsmannschaften
Search teams comb through the crash site.Image: French Interior Ministry/DICOM/Y. Malenfer via Reuters

Copilot's illness revealed

On March 27, prosecutors in Düsseldorf announce that they have found doctor's notes excusing Andreas Lubitz from work. The certificates found in Lubitz's apartment also mention the day of the Airbus crash as a day on which the copilot should not work. He kept them secret from his employer. Speculation about Lubitz's mental state has been growing steadily since. On March 30, it is confirmed that the copilot had been treated for suicidal tendencies and depression. Yet, many psychologists say that this alone can ot explain the bloody crime he supposedly committed. Public debate in Germany focuses on a possible overhaul of medical secrecy.

The flight recorder

Search teams find the crashed plane's data recorder – the second black box on board – on April 2. An analysis confirms the theory of Lubitz having deliberately crashed the airplane. Prosecutors say he actively and intentionally started and sped up the descent of Flight 9525.

Germanwings-Katastrophe Ermittler durchsuchen Wohnung des Co-Piloten
Prosecutors sifted through Lubitz' belongings.Image: Steinbach/Getty Images

An industry under pressure

German airlines introduce a two-person cockpit rule on March 27. Thus, no pilot can be alone in the cockpit during flight. The aviation industry is looking into possible changes to cockpit door locking systems. On April 7, the German Pilots' Doctors Association calls for more frequent and thorough medical examinations of pilots. On April 13, The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations criticizes the "premature" publication of information related to the accident and what it claims was hasty "early conclusions."