The sister of Eyal Baum, an Israeli man who was killed when a German airliner crashed in the French Alps, said on Wednesday that confirmation that her brother was on the flight came from his employer. Beyond that, she said, the family has been relying on the media for information.
A distraught Lital Baum told Army Radio that her father had spoken to Eyal and learned that he planned to take the ill-fated flight from Barcelona in Spain to Dusseldorf in Germany.
The Germanwings Airbus A320, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, crashed in a remote area on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.
When news of the crash first broke, the family still held out hope that perhaps Baum, 39, had not been on the plane, she said. Then the phone rang.
“They called us from his place of work and told us that Eyal was on the flight and the Foreign Ministry confirmed it,” recalled Lital Baum, who sobbed throughout the interview.
Since then the family has received no further official information; instead, it has been relying on news reports of what happened to the plane, which began to descend shortly after reaching its cruising altitude.
“It’s hard to think about what he went through during those minutes,” Baum said, and noted it was premature to speculate on what had happened until investigations were complete.
She said that her brother had been on a work trip. He and his family were due to return to Israel next week ahead of the upcoming Passover festival. Baum worked for the Mango fashion company and lived with his wife in Barcelona.
“He was so special,” Lital Baum said, describing her brother as an upbeat, well-liked man. Fellow employees have been calling the family to offer their condolences, she added.
A delegation from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement Chabad is traveling to the crash site to help with the recovery efforts, Rabbi Eliyahu Attia told Army Radio.
Under overcast skies, with temperatures just above freezing, helicopters resumed flights Wednesday over a widely scattered debris field where the plane came down.
French Interior Ministry spokesman Paul-Henry Brandet said overnight that rain and snow in the crash zone had made the rocky ravine slippery, increasing the difficulty of reaching the steep and remote area.
Francis Hermitte, the mayor of Seyne-Les-Alpes, a town close to the site of the crash in the French Alps said bereaved families are expected to begin arriving in the town during the day.
Hermitte said that local families were offering to host the families because of a shortage of rooms to rent. Leaders of France, Germany and Spain were set to meet with them in a makeshift chapel set up in a gymnasium, he said.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the black box recovered from the crash site had been damaged but was believed to be “useable.” He confirmed it was the voice and cockpit sound recorder.
Cazeneuve told RTL radio that investigators were working to pull information from the black box voice recorder.
Although officials have been firm that no cause has been ruled out, Cazeneuve said terrorism was not considered likely.
Segolene Royal, another top French official, said the seconds between 10:30 a.m. and 10:31 a.m. were considered vital to the investigation into the crash. She said the pilot stopped responding after 10:31.
The crew of the Germanwings flight did not send a distress signal, civil aviation authorities told AFP. “It was air traffic control that decided to declare the plane was in distress because there was no contact with the crew of the plane,” a source said.
Photos of crash site from the La Provence newspaper showed scattered black flecks across a mountain and several larger airplane fuselage sections with windows, five in one chunk and four in another. French officials said a helicopter crew that landed briefly in the area saw no signs of life.
Germanwings said Flight 9525 carried 144 passengers, including two babies, and six crew members. Officials believe 67 German nationals were on board, including 16 high school students on an exchange program from the German town of Haltern. Dutch officials said one citizen was killed.
The plane left Barcelona Airport at 10:01 a.m., then began descending again shortly after reaching its cruising height of 38,000 feet, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said. The descent lasted eight minutes, he told reporters in Cologne.
The plane crashed at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,550 feet), at Meolans-Revels, near the popular ski resort of Pra Loup. The site is 700 kilometers (430 miles) south-southeast of Paris.
Winkelmann said the pilot, whom he did not name, had more than 10 years’ experience working for Germanwings and its parent airline, Lufthansa.
The aircraft was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991, had approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights, Airbus said. The plane last underwent a routine check in Duesseldorf on Monday, and its last regular full check took place in the summer of 2013.
Germanwings is a lower-cost unit of Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline, and serves mostly European destinations. It has been operating since 2002, part of traditional national carriers’ response to competition from European budget carriers.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.