Hundreds gather in France to mark Germanwings crash anniversary
LE VERNET, France, March 24 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people gathered in a tiny village in southern France on Thursday to remember the victims of the Germanwings plane crash one year ago.
All 150 onboard were killed when co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew an A320 jet into a French mountainside on a flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf on March 24, 2015.
Around 650 family members and over 100 employees from Lufthansa and Germanwings attended the private ceremony on a cold but sunny day in the village of Le Vernet. A minute's silence at 0941 GMT marked the time of the crash.
The families will have an option to visit the crash site on Thursday afternoon.
"We have come here today to Le Vernet to remember the victims and to pay our respects," Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said. "We can't ease this catastrophe either but we can at least be here for the relatives," he said.
A minute of silence was also held in the western German town of Haltern, home to a group of school children coming back from an exchange trip in Spain who were among the victims.
At Duesseldorf and Barcelona airports, memorial plaques were also unveiled.
Various recommendations have been made since the crash on how to better improve monitoring of pilots' mental health after it emerged that Lubitz had concealed illness from his employer. Lufthansa has also appointed a safety pilot, reporting directly to Spohr, to further emphasize safety at the airline.
Lufthansa has paid out hundreds of thousands of euros in compensation to each of the families of the victims, but remains in talks with some lawyers who want to sue in the United States, where payouts are typically higher.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell said on Wednesday its lawyers, jointly with peers in the United States and Germany, would issue proceedings shortly against the flight school in Arizona where Lubitz was trained.
Spohr said it was not appropriate to discuss compensation on Thursday.
"We are all interested in a constructive solution. But again, today is about assisting the relatives on this very, very difficult day," he said. (Reporting by Lucien Libert; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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