Saturday, 25 July 2015

Germanwings crash victims remembered in French Alps memorial ceremony

Four months to the day since Germanwings Flight 4U9525 crashed in the French Alps, relatives and friends have gathered at a memorial ceremony near the crash site. Compensation for victims' families remains unsettled.

More than 300 people in the quaint French town of Le Vernet remembered the 150 people who died on March 24 when their flight from Barcelona to D├╝sseldorf crashed in the French Alps outside the town.

Authorities who examined cockpit voice and data recorders from Germanwings Flight 4U9525 concluded that 27-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of severe depression, appeared to have intentionally crashed the plane.

Around half of the crash victims were German, among whom where 16 high school students and two teachers who had been on a school exchange trip in Spain. Other passengers came from Spain, Britain, Denmark, Australia, the US, Israel, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Japan and the Netherlands. 'Sense to life'

Guests attended an interfaith ceremony on Friday at the memorial stone that was erected shortly after the crash, before releasing 149 balloons over the mountain range, each one representing a crash victim, not including Lubitz.

"Now the relatives must find a sense to their lives again," Rabbi Daniel Dahan said at the service.

At a separate ceremony on Thursday evening, the remains of victims who were unable to be identified were laid to rest in a communal grave. Germanwings memorial in Le Vernet, France

The bodies of people were able to be identified by French police were returned to the countries of origin in June.

According to Steffen Rudolph, the ombudsman for relatives of the victims appointed by the German government, all but one of the 150 victims' bodies have been repatriated.

It's difficult for the families - "a grave still exists here, there are over 3,000 remains buried here," aviation attorney Christof Wellens said. Intentional crash

At the end of Friday's ceremony, the mayor of Prads-Haute-Bleone, Bernard Bartolini, said the disaster remains present in the mountainous region. "We owe this place to the relatives," Bartolini said, adding that plans were already in place for a second memorial.

"We want neither a massive press furor, nor a big spectacle," he said. "It shouldn't become some kind of Disneyland." Compensation row

Taking a backseat to the memorial on Friday was the ongoing public row between Lufthansa and lawyers representing the victims' relatives over the amount of compensation each family will receive.

The airline has offered around 100,000 euros ($109,000) per family on average, depending on family size. After a total of 75,000 euros per family unit, Lufthansa also agreed to pay an additional 10,000 euros to each immediate relative, including parents, children and spouses.

Despite demands from lawyers for 200,000 euros per family, the airline has insisted that its offer goes "well beyond" what it is legally bound to pay.

Saturday 25 July 2015


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