Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed at three of the dead in the French Alps are British, a total thought to include a mother and son from Manchester.
Although the crash site is extremely remote and most easily reachable by air, the black-box in-flight data recorder was recovered Tuesday afternoon. The investigation operation has resumed this morning despite snow and rain overnight making access difficult. In contrast to initial reports, the descent of the aircraft before it crashed into the side of a mountain was much slower than eight minutes, possibly taking up to 18 minutes, a consideration which opens many more questions about the last moments of German Wings flight 4U 9525.
In a statement this morning Philip Hammond said: “This is a tragic incident for those involved and their families, I send my deepest condolences to those who have lost family or friends.
“I don’t want to speculate on numbers of British nationals involved until we have completed our checks on all the passenger information. However, based on the information available to us, it is sadly likely that there were some British nationals on board the flight. We are providing consular assistance and will give further help as more information becomes available. We are working closely with the French, German and Spanish authorities, and the airline, to establish the facts.
“The UK Air Accident Investigation Branch, and UK Disaster Victim Identification experts, are also standing by to offer assistance to the French authorities, if required.”
The British dead were father of two Martyn Matthews from Wolverhampton, student Paul Andrew Bramley of Hull, and Manchester resident Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio, who died with her seven month old son. Lopez-Belio had returned to Spain for a family funeral, it is reported.
Germans made up the largest number of passengers on the flight, with 16 pupils and two teachers from the Josef-König School in Haltern contributing to a total of 67. Other nationalities affected included 45 Spanish, and a number of Australians, Dutch, Turks, Danes, Japanese and Israelis.
The cockpit voice recorder of the aircraft is now in Paris for analysis, and air-crash investigators have described the data recorder as “usable”, despite being badly damaged. At present, no cause has been ruled out.