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Plane crash 'unbelievable horror'

Published 17/04/2015

People queue in front of Cologne Cathedral for a ceremony in memory of the victims of the Germanwings plane crash (AP)
People queue in front of Cologne Cathedral for a ceremony in memory of the victims of the Germanwings plane crash (AP)

The Germanwings plane crash was an "unbelievable horror" for the families of those killed, German president Joachim Gauck told hundreds of relatives and dignitaries attending a memorial service in Cologne.

He said the tragedy was compounded by the apparent senselessness of the co-pilot's actions in bringing down the plane.

Mr Gauck said people across Germany, which lost 72 citizens, are still coming to grips with the March 24 crash. The second-biggest group of victims was from Spain, which lost 51 citizens.

Prosecutors have said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps on the way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, killing all 150 aboard. They are still trying to determine why.

"We really don't know what was going through his head during those deciding seconds, in the deciding minutes," Mr Gauck told the congregation that also included Chancellor Angela Merkel, ministers from Spain and France, and the heads of Germanwings and its parent airline, Lufthansa.

"But we do know that his relatives also lost on March 24 a person whom they loved, who leaves a void in their lives - in a way for which they can find as little sense as all of the others' relatives," Mr Gauck said. "Maybe that is what appalled us so much, the senselessness of what took place."

The steps to the altar were covered with 150 lighted candles, one for each person who died.

A choir sang hymns, and religious leaders said multi-denominational prayers.

Lufthansa carried a live-stream on its website and took out full-page advertisements in many of the country's leading newspapers expressing sympathy. Flags were ordered flown at half-mast around the country.

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

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

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