FRENCH investigators are hoping cockpit recordings from the black box retrieved from the crashed Germanwings passenger jet will unlock the mystery of what caused the plane to drop unexpectedly before smashing into an Alpine mountain, killing all 150 on board.
It came as four Britons were announced as being among the victims, who also included 72 Germans and 35 Spaniards.
Seven-month-old Julian Pracz-Bandres, from Manchester, was killed along with his mother, Marina Bandres Lopez Belio, 37, originally from Spain, who worked in the film and TV industry.
Senior quality manager Martyn Matthews, 50, from Wolverhampton, also died, together with Paul Andrew Bramley, 28, who was originally from Hull and was studying hotel management at Lucerne in Switzerland.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “We cannot rule out the possibility that there are further British people involved.”
Other victims included from Australia, the United States, Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium.
The orange cockpit voice recorder, which was found dented, twisted and scarred by the impact, is considered the key to understanding why the A320 aircraft lost radio contact.
French officials said terrorism appears unlikely, and Germany’s top security official said there is no evidence of foul play surrounding Tuesday’s Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight, which crashed after an unexplained eight-minute descent.
The pilots did not send any distress call.
French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the crash left pieces of wreckage “so small and shiny they appear like patches of snow on the mountainside.”
The black box voice recorder takes audio feeds from four microphones within the cockpit and records all the conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers, as well as any noises in the cockpit.
The flight data recorder, which has not been retrieved yet, captures 25 hours’ worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane.
Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Germanwings owner Lufthansa, said he found the crash “inexplicable”.
French president Francois Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrived at Seynes-les-Alpes, near the crash site.
Lufthansa said two charter flights to France will be made available for families who want to get as close as they can to the site.
Germanwings cancelled several flights yesterday because some crews declared themselves unfit to fly after losing colleagues. Airline chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said: “The management completely understands this because we are a small family. Everyone knows everybody inside Germanwings, so it is a big shock for employees.”
Those killed included two babies, two German opera singers, an Australian mother and son holidaying together, and 16 German high school students and their two teachers returning from an exchange in Spain.
Nationality of victims as confirmed by Germanwings or governments
- 72 Germans, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 35 Spaniards, according to Germanwings; Spain says there may be up to 49.
- 3 British, confirmed by the government, which says there may be more. Germanwings could only confirm 1 British.
- 3 Kazakhs, confirmed by the government
- 2 Americans, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 2 Argentines, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 2 Australians, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
- 2 Colombians, confirmed by the government. Germanwings listed 1 Colombian.
- 2 Iranians, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 2 Japanese, confirmed by the government. Germanwings listed 1 Japanese.
- 2 Mexicans, confirmed by government. Germanwings listed 1 Mexican.
- 2 Venezuelans, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 1 Belgian, confirmed by Germanwings.
- 1 Dane, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
- 1 Dutch, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
- 1 Israeli, confirmed by the government and Germanwings.
- 1 Moroccan, confirmed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
- 1 Turk, confirmed by the government.
There were two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran and Venezuela. One victim each came from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel.
Winkelmann says in some cases victims’ nationality isn’t entirely clear, in part because of dual citizenship.
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