Bodies of teens from Germanwings crash arrive in hometown

Hearses carrying the remains of victims of the Germanwings plane disaster drive past the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium high school, where 16 of the victims went to school, in Haltern am See, Germany, on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Hearses carrying the remains of victims of the Germanwings plane disaster drive past the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium high school, where 16 of the victims went to school, in Haltern am See, Germany, on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - The bodies of German schoolchildren killed in the Germanwings plane that was deliberately crashed in the French Alps arrived in their grieving hometown on Wednesday.

Tearful friends and loved ones lined the route in the north-western town of Haltern, as the procession of hearses - 14 white vehicles carrying the teenagers and two black cars with their teachers - rolled past their high school, live television images showed.

Many of the onlookers tossed white roses as church bells rang out.

The victims' remains arrived from Duesseldorf, where a special flight operated by Lufthansa touched down late on Tuesday, repatriating the remains of a total of 44 Germans killed in the March 24 disaster.

The pupils had been returning from an exchange trip to Spain when their flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf came down in the Alps.

Investigators say that 27-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of severe depression, intentionally downed the plane.

A total of 72 Germans were on board the doomed Airbus A320. Lufthansa is the parent company of budget airline Germanwings.

Last week the families of some of the Haltern victims angrily complained to Lufthansa after they were told the repatriation would be delayed due to problems with the issuing of death certificates.

Lufthansa later said the flight would go ahead as initially planned, with further victims to be transferred to their home countries in the coming weeks.

A member of a team of therapists assigned to the families after the crash, Ms Sybille Jatzko, said the loved ones should have been given a representative to collect information on the repatriation and other logistical and bureaucratic issues.

"That is one thing that clearly went very wrong" in the crash's aftermath, she told the daily Berliner Zeitung, noting that many of the grieving parents simply lacked the strength to contend with the paperwork.

French prosecutor Brice Robin, who is leading the probe into the crash, was due to meet Thursday with relatives of some of the other victims to discuss the identification and repatriation of remains.