Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Forensic teams identify 78 DNA strands from remains at Germanwings crash site

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 12 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
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Forensic teams have identified 78 distinct DNA strands from body parts spread across the remote mountainside in the French Alps where Germanwings flight 4U9525 crashed, killing all 150 people on board.

Rescuers are still, however, to locate the plane’s second black box — its flight data recorder — six days after the Barcelona to Düsseldorf flight crashed into a rocky ravine at 435 miles (700km) per hour.

Between 400 and 600 body parts have been located and are currently being examined.

“We haven’t found a single body intact,” said Patrick Touron, the deputy director of the police’s criminal research institute. Identification experts were using dental records, DNA samples from family members, fingerprints, jewellery and bits of ID card to help the process.

Forensic experts from the French gendarmerie disaster victim identification unit working under a tent near the site of the crash

The black box, which is actually orange and weighs around 10 kilos, was originally in a protective casing, but only the empty casing has been found.

Captain Yves Naffrechoux, a mountain ranger, told Agence France-Presse: “If it has not been completely destroyed or pulverised, the black box will be under the rubble and debris. We must work with caution and a lot of precision. We have to look under every last bit of plane and lift every rock.”

An access road was being built to the site to allow all-terrain vehicles to remove some of the larger parts of the plane.

Prosecutors in France and Germany have suggested that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the plane. They have retrieved a torn-up sick note from his flat in Düsseldorf, which was dated for the day of the disaster. Lubitz, who is from the small German town of Montabaur, had a history of depression which he hid from his employer and colleagues, they said.

The suicide-mass murder theory is based on the cockpit voice recorder retrieved from the crash site near the village of Le Vernet. According to Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the captain, Patrick Sondheimer, asked Lubitz to prepare the plane to land in Düsseldorf. Lubitz responded “laconically”. Sondheimer then left the cockpit to go to the toilet, telling his co-pilot: “You can take over.”

Forensic experts confirmed they have found the remains of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz (pictured), who deliberately flew the Germanwings Airbus A320 into the mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday. He was said to have been suffering from a ‘severe psychosomatic disorder’


There was a sound of a seat being pushed back, and the door clicking shut. According to Bild, the plane then went into a steady descent. Minutes later there is a loud knocking and the voice of the captain saying: “For God’s sake open the door.” In the final moments the screams of passengers can be heard.

German and European pilots’ associations both urged caution last week in stating the cause of the crash until the second black box is discovered and the air accident investigation is brought to a conclusion.

Jean-Pierre Michel, the head of the French investigation agency, said that some technical details of what precisely happened to the Airbus A320 aircraft were still missing. “At the moment we can’t rule out the hypothesis of a technical fault,” Michel told the French channel BFM TV.

German investigators removed dozens of boxes from the Dusseldorf apartment Lubitz shared with his girlfriend, before later revealing they had found sick-notes signing him off work the day of the air crash. 

The German chief executive of the Airbus Group, Tom Enders, expressed his irritation on Sunday and criticised TV talkshow coverage of the disaster. “There has been speculation without facts, fantasy and lies,” Enders said. Such “outrageous nonsense” mocked the victims, he added.

In Montabaur, where Lubitz lived part of the time with his father, mother and younger brother, prayers were said on Sunday for the victims of the crash, and for the co-pilot and his grieving family. Hundreds of worshippers packed into St Peter’s Catholic church on the town’s cobbled main street, on a morning of pouring rain.

Many there believed that investigators had been too quick to blame Lubitz for the disaster. Candles and flowers have been left outside the church, and one note read: “We think of all victims of this tragic crash, and their families and friends, in these difficult hours.”

The priest expressed sympathy for Lubitz’s parents whom, he said, had found themselves “at the centre of attention”, the families and friends of the victims, and the rescue workers in France.

Source: The Guardian

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