PARIS — A German jetliner en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, plunged from the sky on Tuesday and slammed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Helicopters and rescue personnel swarmed into the remote, rugged area in southeastern France after the crash but found no signs of life. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said none of the 144 passengers and six crew members survived.
The authorities and executives of the airline, the budget carrier Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, had no immediate explanation for the cause of the crash, which occurred just before 11 a.m. At a news conference Tuesday evening, Heike Birlenbach, the vice president of Lufthansa, said, “At this stage, we consider this to be an accident,” adding that everything else was speculation.
As night fell in the area, officials said they had recovered one of the jet’s so-called black boxes: the cockpit voice recorder, which captures up to two hours of the pilots’ conversations as well as other cockpit noises, including any alarms that would have sounded as the plane descended. A few hours later, they called off the search for the evening.
he plane, an Airbus A320 that carried young people, vacationers and others, crashed after an eight-minute descent from 38,000 feet, the managing director of Germanwings, Thomas Winkelmann, said at a news conference.
When French air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at about 10:53 a.m., it was flying at just 6,000 feet, Mr. Winkelmann said, and it crashed shortly afterward. The terrain in that area rises to an elevation of more than 6,000 feet.
As emergency crews combed France’s Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, Mr. Valls announced a judicial investigation into the crash. Many questions remained, including whether the pilots were in control of the aircraft during the descent and what would have caused a plane with an experienced pilot and solid safety record to crash in largely clear and cloudless weather.
The passengers included Germans, Spaniards and Turks, and among them was a class of 16 German high school students and two teachers who were returning from a study program near Barcelona. Some of their parents gathered at the airport in Düsseldorf, frantically waiting for news but preparing for the worst.
“This is the darkest day in the history of our city,” said Bodo Klimpel, the mayor of Haltern am See in northwestern Germany, where the 10th-grade students went to school. “The city is deeply shocked. A feeling of shock can be felt everywhere. It is about the worst thing imaginable.”
As he spoke, people began arriving outside the Joseph König high school in the small city, bearing flowers and candles.
According to Germanwings, at least 67 Germans were among the passengers, which included two infants. The airline was working to inform the affected families before releasing further information about those on board.