Friday, April 17, 2015

Relatives, Leaders Mourn Germanwings Crash Victims At Memorial Service

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck and hundreds of dignitaries and relatives of 150 people killed in last month's crash of a Germanwings jet packed Cologne's landmark cathedral Friday to pay tribute.

The steps to the altar were covered with 150 lighted candles, one for each person who died — including co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who investigators believe deliberately crashed the plane.


German President Joachim Gauck addresses the memorial service in the Cathedral in Cologne, April 17, 2015. (OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)

"It's not for us to judge," Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, told Bild newspaper ahead of the service about the decision to include a candle for Lubitz.

Most victims of the March 24 crash in France were Germans or Spaniards. Flight 9525 was en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

French and Spanish ministers were among some 1,400 people at the memorial service, which was carried live on German television.


A black ribbon showing the flight number of Germanwings flight 4U9525 is displayed at the Dom cathedral on April 17, 2015 in Cologne, Germany. (Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images)

Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent airline, took out full-page advertisements in many of the country's leading newspapers expressing sympathy and carried a livestream of the service on its website.

Flags were ordered flown at half-staff around the country as part of the tribute.


A view taken on April 6, 2015 in the early morning, shows a memorial for the victims of the Germanwings plane crash in the village of Le Vernet, southeastern France. (JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)

Woelki told the relatives of the victims that words alone were too weak to give them any solace, but that they should take comfort in the numbers of people with them at the memorial service, and those following it online or on television around the country.

"You are not alone in these hours of loneliness," he said.

More than 80 percent of the debris from the plane crash in the Alps has now been recovered and removed.

Though prosecutors believe Lubitz intentionally crashed the plane, they are still trying to determine why.

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