The remains of some of the 150 people who died in the crash of a Germanwings jet in the French Alps will be returned to relatives early next week, Lufthansa, the airline's parent company, said Friday evening.
The announcement brings to an end more than two days of uncertainty for the families after the transfer was suspended because of last-minute paperwork errors.
In a statement, Lufthansa said that an initial flight from Marseille, France, bearing the remains of 30 German victims would arrive in Duesseldorf, Germany, late Tuesday on a dedicated cargo plane and that their coffins would be handed over to the families early Wednesday.
Further transfers from France to the victims’ home countries are expected to take place “in the coming weeks” and should be completed by the end of June, Lufthansa said.
The reversal comes just days after dumbstruck relatives in 17 countries received word that several of the victims’ death certificates, which were issued by the French authorities, contained factual or typographical errors that had rendered them invalid.
The news prompted the airline to suspend its plans to repatriate the remains until the errors were corrected - setting off an outpouring of anger by some of the families, many of whom had already scheduled funerals and memorial services for next week.
“The French authorities are working flat out to ensure that all the formal requirements for the repatriation of the victims can take place as quickly as possible,” Friday’s statement said. “Lufthansa remains in close contact with the families to make sure that the transfers take place according to their wishes.”
The delay in repatriating the victims had come after the French authorities spent weeks isolating the DNA of all those aboard from remains that were recovered from the blackened crash site in the French Alps, where investigators say the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately steered the flight into the ground March 24th, 2015.
Among the services that will be able to proceed as planned are more than a dozen funerals scheduled to begin June 12th in Haltern am See, near Cologne, Germany. The town was home to 16 high school students and two of their teachers who died en route to Duesseldorf from a week-long exchange program with another school in Spain.
Ulrich Wessel, principal of the Joseph Koenig High School in Haltern am See, said: “It is a great relief for us all, but especially for the parents” of the students. “At least they now have certainty that their children are finally coming home.”
New York Times