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Church service as Europe mourns plane crash dead

by Antony Bushfield

There are no survivors from the 144 passengers and six crew on board the aircraft, which came down near Digne in the French Alps on Tuesday morning.

Three British people were on board.

The aircraft was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf carrying the pupils from Joseph Koenig High School who were returning from a week-long school exchange trip in the Spanish village of Llinars del Valles.

Flight 4U 9525 - What we know

  • 10.01am Takes off from Barcelona Airport bound for Dusseldorf
  • 10.30am Reached cruising height but began descending again.
  • 10.31am Air traffic control loses contact with plane
  • 10.45am Distress signal issued by air traffic controllers - nothing from plane
  • 10.57am Crashed at an altitude of 6,550ft in Meolans-Revels, in the French Alps.

Last night hundreds gathered at St Sixtus Catholic Church in the centre of town to pray for the victims and their families.

Christopher Schweigmann, 16, told reporters he had lost two friends in the crash and that "everyone was in tears" inside the church.

"It's impossible to believe that they all won't be there anymore in the coming days," he's quoted as saying in the Independent.

Journalists at the service reported children crying uncontrollably before being led away by adults.

The church was providing social workers and psychologists for anyone who needed help.

Bishop of Gibraltar Rt Revd Robert Innes said: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the Germanwings air disaster. It is particularly distressing that many of those who lost their lives were young people.

"As a diocese, we express our deepest sympathies to the families from Spain, France, Germany and other European countries caught up in this tragedy.

"We pray for God's peace and comfort for those who grieve. We are aware that their lives have been changed for ever by what has happened.

"I was at a meeting in the European Parliament with other religious leaders from across Europe when I heard the news.

"Vice President Tajani, who is a practising Catholic, led us all in a minute's silence to remember the victims. It was a poignant start to a meeting concerned with inter-religious dialogue and peace."

Spain has confirmed 45 of the passengers were Spanish nationals.

The chaplain of an Anglican church near Barcelona told Premier he would be offering assistance to any English speaking families who were caught up in the tragedy.

Revd John Chapman from St George's in Barcelona told Premier it was "very, very sad" and that his church would be sending out a prayer request. 

Elsewhere Foreign Secretary Philip 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.

"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 cause of the crash is not yet known although investigators have recovered the black box.

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