Memorial ceremonies held for Germanwings victims one year after crash

Relatives of the 150 people killed when the co-pilot of a Germanwings plane deliberately flew into the French Alps one year ago observed a minute's silence near the crash site and in a small German town that lost a party of school pupils.

"We have come to Le Vernet to commemorate the victims and to pay them our respects," Carsten Spohr, the head of Germanwings parent company Lufthansa said Thursday in the French alpine village of Le Vernet.

"We cannot alleviate the unhappiness, but we can at least stand by the relatives," he said, as some 600 relatives of the victims gathered at the site.

In Haltern, in Germany's western Ruhr region, a memorial service with flowers and candles was held for the 16 pupils from the town's Joseph Koenig school and their two teachers killed in the crash.

"You are forever with us," was inscribed on a banner. A minute's silence was observed at 10:41 am (0941 GMT) in both Le Vernet and Haltern, and church bells were rung.

A public service was held in the Haltern's Catholic church on the central square, while in Le Vernet the service was for relatives only, many of whom had travelled from Germany.

"It is true that this accident has changed our town greatly. We have never experienced anything like this," Haltern Mayor Bodo Klimpel said.

"It is certainly the worst and most difficult thing to have happened to this town since World War II."

The school party from Haltern had been on an exchange visit to Spain and were on their way home aboard Flight 4U9525 when co-pilot Andreas Lubitz put the plane into a shallow dive, crashing it into a mountainside some 3 kilometres east of Le Vernet.

Lubitz, who was 27, crashed the Airbus A320 on March 24, 2015 as it was flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. Of those aboard the budget airline flight, 72 were from Germany and 51 from Spain.

Court proceedings are being initiated in the United States centring on the Lufthansa training facility in Arizona. Lubitz interrupted his training there in 2009 owing to mental health problems.

Ahead of Thursday's ceremony, Spohr said he was willing to look into a "constructive solution" to the case. "From the start we said we would show generosity, and we have shown generosity in the first year," he said.

The company has paid out 50,000 euros (55,000 dollars) for each victim. A further 25,000 euros is to be paid, and next-of-kin are to receive 10,000 euros.

Last update: Thu, 24/03/2016 - 13:53

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