Delayed return of Germanwings victims' remains sparks anger

BERLIN (AFP) - Relatives of those killed when a Germanwings flight was deliberately crashed into the French Alps have angrily complained to parent company Lufthansa, after a delay in the return of victims' remains, their lawyer said on Friday.

The bodies were due to be repatriated on June 9 and 10 but Lufthansa contacted the families this week to announce a hold-up, said Elmar Giemulla, the lawyer for victims from the northwestern German town of Haltern.

"The anger and despair are increasing," wrote the families of 16 teenagers who were among the 150 people killed in the March 24 crash.

The first burials of the Haltern students, who were flying back from an exchange trip to Spain when the co-pilot crashed the jet, had already been planned for June 12.

However, Lufthansa this week informed relatives of "new administrative requirements" that had temporarily delayed the repatriation of the victims' remains, according to the families.

Contacted by AFP Thursday, Germanwings confirmed that mistakes had occurred in the issuing of death certificates, whose validity had expired and had to be re-issued, leading to an "interruption." "We're working intensively on finding a solution as quickly as possible in the interests of the relatives," a Germanwings spokesman said, without specifying any dates.

A regional newspaper, the Cologne Express, has said that mistakes in the translation of the death certificates from French were behind the delay.

Investigators only last month finished identifying the remains of all 150 people aboard the flight that crashed en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

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