Virginia mother, daughter on doomed German plane that crashed in Alps – Fox News

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The 150 people killed in the plane crash in the French Alps included a government contractor from Virginia and her daughter, it was reported Wednesday.

Yvonne Selke and her daughter Emily, a 2013 college grad, were among the passengers aboard the ill-fated Germanwings flight from Spain to German.

Yvonne Selke was a longtime and highly regarded employee of Booz Allen Hamilton. She worked with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s satellite mapping office and lived in Nokesville, Virginia, the Associated Press said.

Her husband Raymond Selke told the Washington Post he was too grief-stricken distraught to give details or discuss the crash.

Emily Sekle graduated from Drexel University where she was a member of a sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma. The sorority posted condolences on its Facebook page.

“She embodied the spirit of Gamma Sigma Sigma,” the sorority said. “As a person and friend, Emily always put others before herself and cared deeply for all those in her life.”

Earlier Wednesday, searchers found an empty second “black box” during a search of the rugged mountainside terrain in South France where the passenger plane crashed into the Alps.

French President Francois Hollande said the flight data recorder case was found without any contents. The crash apparently dislodged the recorder’s memory card which is still missing.

Search teams found the mangled first black box, the cockpit voice recorder, just hours after the crash Tuesday. French officials said Wednesday afternoon that investigators had retrieved an audiophile form the recorder with “usable sound and voice.” They hope to make conclusions about recordings in a few days.

Investigators need the two black boxes to solve the biggest mystery: what caused the Airbus A320 to descend over an 8-minute period without any pilot indication the aircraft was in trouble. The experienced pilot had the plane at 38,000 feet, but only for a minute. Then suddenly and inexplicably, the jet descended apparently still under control and without a single distress call or a request for permission.

Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann told reporters two Americans were on board the plane with 72 Germans and 35 Spanish citizens. The airline was still trying to contact relatives of 27 other victims, he said. Sixteen other passengers were from eight other countries, including Australia and Israel.

The French investigation into the tragedy is focused on the final seconds before air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio that the voice cockpit recorder “is damaged and must be reconstituted in the coming hours in order to be usable.” The recorder was flown to Paris after being found. The cockpit voice recorder could provide vital clues about the condition of the pilots during the plane’s final plunge from a cruising height of 38,000 feet to around 6,000 feet just prior to the crash.

Meanwhile, Segolene Royal, France’s Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, said Wednesday that the pilots stopped responding to radio calls after 10:31 a.m. local time, about 30 minutes into the flight. She said that the seconds after 10:30 a.m. are considered vital to the investigation.

Investigators retrieving data from the cockpit voice recorder will focus first “on the human voices, the conversations” followed by the cockpit sounds, Transport Secretary Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio. He said the government planned to release information gleaned from the black box as soon as it can be verified.

“[The recorder] is damaged and must be reconstituted in the coming hours in order to be usable.”

– French official

The grim task of recovering bodies from the rugged terrain resumed Wednesday as investigators tried to piece together the many puzzles surrounding the crash that killed all 144 passengers and six crew members on board.  

The single-aisle, medium-haul plane operated by a subsidiary of Lufthansa was less than an hour from completing its scheduled flight to Dusseldorf from Barcelona Tuesday morning when it unexpectedly went into a rapid descent, losing contact with air traffic controllers on the ground.

France’s civil aviation authority said the pilots had not sent out a distress call before losing radio contact with their control center. Instead, the Wall Street Journal reported that air traffic controllers issued an alarm after the plane disappeared from their radar screens. Moments later, the paper reported, the French military ordered a fighter jet to the area where the plane was last tracked.

Both Cazenueve and Royal said that terrorism was considered unlikely to have been the cause of the crash, though it has not been formally ruled out. That is in keeping with the stance of governments on both sides of the Atlantic. On Tuesday, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, “There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time.” The Journal reported that the French government had assigned prosecutors based in the nearby city of Marseilles to investigate the crash rather than its anti-terrorism unit, which is headquartered in Paris. 

In another twist, the secretary-general of France’s air traffic controllers union said that the plane did not appear to deviate from its flight plan as it went down, which is unusual for an aircraft in distress. 

“If there’s a loss of control, pilots usually lose their way too,” Roger Rousseau told the Journal. “That didn’t happen in this case.”

“We cannot say at the moment why our colleague went into the descent, and so quickly, and without previously consulting air traffic control,” Germanwings’ director of flight operations, Stefan-Kenan Scheib, said Tuesday.

The wreckage was located at an altitude of about 6,550 feet at Meolans-Revels, near the popular ski resort of Pra Loup. The remote site is 430 miles south-southeast of Paris. French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the crash site covered several acres, with thousands of pieces of debris, “which leads us to think the impact must have been extremely violent at very high speed.”

Complicating the recovery and investigation is the inaccessibility of the site by road, forcing emergency workers to choose between hiking up from a base established in a nearby village or rappelling down from helicopters unable to land on the uneven terrain. Operations were abandoned Tuesday after conditions deteriorated, and Interior Ministry spokesman Paul-Henry Brandet said overnight rain and snow had made the rocky ravine slippery, increasing the difficulty of reaching the area.

Families of the victims were expected to arrive in Seyne-Les-Alpes, the closest town to the crash site Wednesday morning, according to the town’s mayor. Francis Hermitte, said local families are offering to host the victims’ relatives because of a shortage of rooms to rent. Leaders of France, Germany and Spain will also meet with them in a makeshift chapel set up in a gymnasium.

Marion Cotterill, head of civil protection there, said the priority is to welcome families humanely. “We offer a hot drink, a smile, a warm regard, or psychological counseling if asked for.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from the Wall Street Journal.


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