Five years since Germanwings: the tragedy that should never have happened

On March 24, 2015, an Airbus A320-211 took off from Barcelona airport, some 40 minutes later all on board were dead, including 16 children


Two people remember their relatives in the monolith to tribute the victims of the Germanwings tragedy, in Barcelona's El Prat airport, on March 23, 2018 (by Norma Vidal)
Two people remember their relatives in the monolith to tribute the victims of the Germanwings tragedy, in Barcelona's El Prat airport, on March 23, 2018 (by Norma Vidal) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 24, 2020 11:12 AM

Tragedies are unfortunately inevitable, but avoidable tragedies are all the more tragic. An example of a tragic incident that should never have happened and that led to the deaths of 150 people took place five years ago on Tuesday, when a plane of the Germanwings airline that had taken off from Barcelona airport was deliberately crashed into a mountain.

On March 24, 2015, a Germanwings Airbus A320-211 took off from Barcelona destined for Düsseldorf with 144 passengers on board, two pilots, and four cabin crew. None of the people on board ever reached their destination, because 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz decided to commit suicide by crashing the plane into the French Alps.

Five years on, many people may need reminding about the details of the tragic fate of Germanwings flight 9525. None of those people, however, are the family and friends of the 149 victims: people of 21 nationalities, including 74 Germans and 54 Spanish, and most heartbreaking of all, 16 students from the Joseph König Secondary School.

Some of the victims' family members shared their thoughts in a recent documentary shown on Catalan television, 'Els supervivents del vol 9525 de Germanwings' (The survivors of Germanwings flight 9525). Some blamed the doctors for not grounding Lubitz after he reported suffering from depression, but most pointed the finger at Lufthansa.

Barcelona court case still ongoing

Germanwings was Lufthansa's low-cost carrier at the time, until Germany's flag-carrying airline transferred it in October 2015 to its Eurowings division. A court case brought by some of the victims' families against Lufthansa is ongoing in Barcelona, with a ruling on the negligence claim made against the German airline still pending.

Curiously, few of the victims' family members put the blame squarely on Lubitz' shoulders, even though his actions alone led to the deaths of their loved ones. Lubitz should never have been on the plane, they argue, as he had informed the company of "episodes of severe depression" and had previously received treatment for suicidal tendencies.

The courts will eventually decide how accountable Lufthansa was for the tragedy, but for the moment all we have are the facts. That flight 9525 took off from Barcelona just after 10 am, and that some 40 minutes later everyone on board was dead after Lubitz locked himself alone in the cockpit and flew the plane into the Trois-Évêchés mountain range.

Today, on the slopes of those mountains in the French Alps, stands a memorial to the victims, a huge and beautiful golden globe that stands out against the dark bare rock, a gesture that ensures that the 149 innocent people whose lives were snuffed out will never be forgotten, and a warning that some tragedies can be avoided.

Tributes postponed

The fifth anniversary of the events was expected to be marked with several tributes, but the coronavirus crisis has obliged organizers to cancel or postpone them.

The president of the association of the victims of the tragedy, Eduardo Ruiz, told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that a concert, that a floral tribute in Barcelona's airport and some events in France have been put off.

Ruiz says that the victims have already planned for the concert and the floral tribute to take place between June and September. It will be "almost impossible" for the rest of the events to take place.

According to him, those affected will have to mark the day in private and through instant messaging with other victims.