Audio File Recovered From Germanwings Black Box

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Audio File Recovered From Germanwings Black Box
Wreckage is seen where a Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner has crashed in the French Alps between Barcelonnette and Digne on March 24, 2015.

The director of the lead investigating agency said today that they have recovered an audio file from the black box of the downed Germanwings flight but have not found the second black box from the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps.

This comes after French Prime Minister Francois Hollande said at an earlier news conference when he said that crews had found the exterior of the black box but not the module that contains the memory equipment, though a the director of the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) went on to deny any such discovery.

"We have not localized the black box," said BEA Director Rmi Jouty. "We have not found any debris of the black box and in the history of air accidents we know about ... [we] don't remember any recorder broken into little pieces."

When asked if they had ruled out the possibility of the crash being the result of a terrorist attack, he said the BEA is "not ruling out any hypothesis at this stage."

They have recovered an audio file from the first black box, the cockpit voice recorder, though no further details were revealed about whether or not voices are heard on the recording.

Jouty noted that it would take days for initial findings to be released, though it will be weeks before a full understanding is clear, but he was able to weigh in and tentatively ruled several possible causes out based on the debris pattern.

"The area seems very big but the debris seems very small which is not at all consistent with an aircraft that exploded mid-air," Jouty said.

"At the moment, there's no information leading us to think that the weather conditions were particularly bad," he said.

Jouty said that the flight path looks consistent with one controlled by a pilot, but that may also be attributable to the plane's automatic pilot settings, saying that it was "too soon to draw any conclusions."

One of the problems facing investigators is the location of the crash site, as the area is very steep and unstable. Investigators and site crews have to be tied to one another when they are near the crash site to ensure their safety, Jouty said.

"After 20 years in this industry and being a Lufthansa pilot myself, we still can't understand waht happened here yesterday," Germanwings CEO Carsten Spohr said at a press conference in Barcelona this evening.

"We have an aircraft in perfect technical condition with two experienced pilots which was involved in such a terrible accident," Spohr said.

Earlier today, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann noted that two Americans were on board the Germanwings flight that crashed. The U.S. State Department has since confirmed that there were three Americans on board.

Two of the Americans were later identified as Yvonne Selke, and employee of Booz Allen, and Selke's daughter, Emily, according to Betty Thompson, the company's chief personnel officer.

The Germanwings plane crashed Tuesday in the Alps in southern France with 150 people on board, including two babies, the airline said. French President Francois Hollande said there were "apparently no survivors."

Searchers returned to the crash scene today, as France's minister of the interior said a black box voice recorder from the plane is damaged. Even so, said the official, Bernard Cazeneuve, the information on the recorder should be retrievable.

The CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said a full analysis of the voice recorder was expected to be done by Thursday. But Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, said on BFM TV that black box results could take several days.

The initial focus for the voice recorder investigators will be "on the human voices, the conversations," followed by the cockpit sounds, France's transport minister, Alain Vidalies, told Europe 1 radio this morning.

Police helicopter searches of the Germanwings Airbus crash site resumed Wednesday morning.

Xavier Roy, coordinator for French air rescue, told ABC News that no bodies are going to be taken from the mountain today, and that the investigation on site will take a week. Unlike other crash sites, Roy said, there isn't much to find.

"When you go to a crash site you expect to recognize parts of an airplane." he said. "Sadly, here you don't see anything -- just debris scattered all over."

He added that this was a difficult area to search, as it is "nearly impossible to reach by foot," making it challenging to get rescuers in and out of the area safely.

The top priorities now are locating bodies and the second black box, he said.

In addition to 72 Germans, 35 Spanish and two Americans on board, Winkelmann, the Germanwings CEO, said there were two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran and Venezuela. One victim each came from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel, he said, adding that the list isn't yet final because the company is still trying to contact relatives of 27 victims. Winkelmann added that in some cases victims' nationality weren't clear because of possible dual citizenship.

A German high school has posted the names of their 16 students and two colleagues who were all on board the flight and died in the crash as they were returning from a Spanish-language exchange program.

Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were scheduled to arrive at the crash staging area today.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, the Germanwings CEO said. Lufthansa called the crash "an accident."

"Seeing the site of the accident was harrowing," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr tweeted this morning. "We are in deep mourning. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims."

ABC News' Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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