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Relatives of Catalan victims of Germanwings disaster to arrive at crash site in coming hours

A bus transporting relatives of the passengers of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday has departed on Wednesday evening from Barcelona, together with a support team from Catalonia's Medical Emergencies Service (SEM). In addition, on Thursday morning, Lufthansa, which owns low-cost airline Germanwings, will put on a plane from Barcelona to Marseille to transport other relatives, who will also travel with SEM teams. The CEO of the German company, Carsten Spohr, held a press conference in Barcelona El Prat Airport on Wednesday evening, in which he announced this measure, after meeting with some relatives. Spohr also stated that the accident was "incomprehensible" and that the aircraft had departed from Barcelona with a half-hour delay due to airport traffic and not because of a technical problem. During the day, relatives have been taken care of in a hotel in Castelldefels.

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25 March 2015 10:34 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- A bus transporting relatives of the passengers of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday has departed on Wednesday evening from Barcelona, together with a support team from Catalonia's Medical Emergencies Service (SEM). In addition, on Thursday morning, Lufthansa, which owns low-cost airline Germanwings, will put on a plane from Barcelona to Marseille to transport other relatives, who will also travel with SEM teams. The CEO of the German company, Carsten Spohr, held a press conference in Barcelona El Prat Airport on Wednesday evening, in which he announced this measure, after meeting with some relatives. Spohr also stated that the accident was "incomprehensible" and that the aircraft had departed from Barcelona with a half-hour delay due to the airport traffic and not because of a technical problem.


During the day, about a hundred relatives have been taken care in the Hotel Don Jaime in Castelldefels, near Barcelona El Prat. On Tuesday evening, they were transported from the airport, where they had been initially taken care of, to the hotel. On Wednesday, further relatives have been arriving and others were leaving and coming back a few hours later with suitcases to be ready to travel to France. Meanwhile, the Catalan Government's Police Force 'Mossos d'Esdquadra', together with Spanish Police officers, have retrieved DNA samples from 48 families for victim identification purposes.

Lufthansa representatives met with the victims’ relatives

Representatives of Lufthansa met with relatives of the victims on the evening of the accident, as well as on Wednesday for 3 hours. They were discussing the options they had to travel to the crash site, for which the German company would pay the costs and place an aircraft at their disposal. The company was initially represented by its Vice President for Europe, Heike Birlenbach, who arrived on Tuesday evening. Lufthansa's main managers, including its Executive President Carsten Spohr, arrived on Wednesday late-afternoon to the hotel.

In addition to this, the German company explained that they are also offering psychological support and financial help to the victims, including in their own homes. In this vein, Germanwings Spokesperson Tomas Winkelmann explained that the company has helped relatives of the victims from Latin America to travel to Europe from their home countries, in order to be closer to the crash site. Furthermore, the company has set up information and psychological care points in Barcelona, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. They are also preparing a support centre in France, as well as a freephone line for information.

There was some discussion over whether to travel immediately to the crash site or not. Some psychologists from the Red Cross were advising the relatives that a hurried trip was not the best option. According to specialists, it was better to wait a few more hours and travel in a most organised way, which would include medical and psychological support.

A bus and a plane travelling to France

A first bus with a group of relatives is travelling on Wednesday night to the scene of the tragedy. Together with the families of the victims, a doctor, a nurse and a manager from SEM, 4 psychologists (3 from the Red Cross and one from Catalonia's Professional Association of Psychologists) are also travelling in the bus as support. They are expected to arrive in the Alps on Thursday early morning.

In addition, Lufthansa has organised an aircraft that can transport 150 people that will leave Barcelona El Part on Thursday morning at 8.45am (CET) and land in Marseille. From there, they will travel to Digne-les-bains by road. As with the other group, a SEM team consisting of a doctor, a nurse and a psychologist will also be travelling with the relatives.

In addition, the Catalan Red Cross has sent a team of 9 people to Digne-les-Bains, the town near the crash site. It includes psychologists, social workers and first responders, as well as drivers and a person dealing with communication.

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  • Red Cross workers attending relatives of the victims at the hotel in Castelldefels (by J. Pujolar)

  • Red Cross workers attending relatives of the victims at the hotel in Castelldefels (by J. Pujolar)