MARIGNANE (AFP) - The first bodies from the Germanwings plane that was deliberately crashed in the French Alps were being repatriated to Germany on Tuesday.
A special flight operated by Lufthansa was carrying the remains of 44 Germans, among the 150 onboard when the jet crashed on March 24, from the southern French city of Marseille to Duesseldorf in western Germany.
A Lufthansa MD-11 cargo plane took off from Marseille airport at 1903 GMT on Tuesday, an AFP reporter said. Lufthansa, the parent company of budget airline Germanwings, said in a press release that the plane was due to arrive in Duesseldorf at 2030 GMT.
A total of 72 Germans had been onboard the doomed Airbus A320, which was heading from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when it crashed in the French Alps.
Brice Robin, the French prosecutor who is leading the investigation into the crash, is due to meet on Thursday with relatives of some of the other victims to discuss the identification and repatriation of remains.
Last week, the families of some of the 16 teenage victims from the same German high school 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.
The teenagers, from the northwest German town of Haltern, had been flying back from an exchange trip to Spain.
"After this first special flight to Duesseldorf, the other victims will be gradually transferred to their home countries in the coming weeks," Lufthansa said. "The French authorities are working hard in order to create the formal conditions for the transfer of the victims as soon as possible."
"Lufthansa is in close contact with the relatives to ensure that the transfer of the victims is carried out according to the relatives' wishes."
Investigators only last month finished identifying the remains of all 150 people aboard Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. They say that 27-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of severe depression, intentionally downed the plane.