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Germanwings Jet Crashes In The French Alps


We're learning as much as we can about a deadly plane crash in Europe this morning. The commercial jet from the airline Germanwings was carrying nearly 150 people. It was traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, and went down in the foothills of the French Alps. We've reached NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who's been following this story from Paris. And, Eleanor, give us the latest at this point.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, David. Well, what we do know is that it was Germanwings flying an Airbus A320. It had taken off from Barcelona, Spain, this morning around 10 a.m. local time. It was on its way to Dusseldorf when it went down about 45 minutes later in the French Alps. It apparently descended very rapidly within five minutes. It didn't issue any distress signal, says the French civil aviation authorities. And then it disappeared from the screen.

Now, you said the foothill of the Alps. But actually, David, it crashed in the peaks of the Alps. This is a very remote region - craggy, white peaks just like needles. And you can't even get to this region. No one has reached the site yet. It's only reachable by helicopter, and guides are saying, on foot, it can even take days to get there. These are peaks that are, like, 7,000 feet high.

The mayor of a small town at the base of these peaks said the town was bracing for the onslaught for what was going to happen. She said we have the stadium ready for helicopters to land, for the Army if it needs to come in. And we have psychological units in place to counsel probably the families of the victims because they're saying that no one could have survived this crash.

GREENE: Well, this airline, Germanwings, I mean, you said that they were flying an Airbus 320. What do we know about the airline? What do we know about this exact plane?

BEARDSLEY: Well, this plane is known as a workhorse. It's a great plane. It's a very popular plane. Germanwings was just the budget carrier of Lufthansa Airlines, the German airline. You know, a lot of these European airlines have budget carriers to compete with companies like Ryanair and EasyJet. It was low-cost, but it was certainly in good condition. The company had an impeccable safety record. Its fleet was in great condition. And so right now, it is just pure speculation as to why this plane went down - nobody knows.

GREENE: And just a few seconds we have left - Eleanor, do we know anything about the passengers who were on board?

BEARDSLEY: Mostly Spanish, German and Turkish - consequentially, the king of Spain, Felipe VI, was in Paris today on a state visit and came out and spoke. And he said they were cutting it short - canceling it. He seemed very shaken. He said he was going back to Spain. Nobody knows exactly who the people were but that no one could've survived this crash.

GREENE: OK. we've been speaking to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley about a plane crash in a remote part of the French Alps this morning - nearly 150 people on board and no survivors expected. We'll be learning more throughout the day. Eleanor, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: Good to be with you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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