Sixteen German school pupils and their two teachers who all died in the Germanwings plane crash on Tuesday nearly missed the flight after one pupil forgot her passport, it has emerged.
The students, who were returning from a nine day exchange trip in Barcelona, looked set to miss the doomed flight, after one fifteen-year-old girl left her passport behind with her host family.
However, in a desperately unfortunate turn of events, the family took the girl and her travel documents directly to the airport in Barcelona, enabling the party to board the flight on time.
There had initially been some hope that the pupils might have missed the flight, but this was quickly quashed by by Marti Pujol, the mayor of the Spanish village, who revealed that the young girl had realised she left her passport behind after arriving at the train station, but confirmed that the group had managed to board the flight nonetheless.
In Dusseldorf, the destination airport, family members arriving at the airport were taken from the main terminal to a nearby building and offered counseling.
The pupils were from the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium school in Haltern am See, Western Germany.
Bodo Klimpel, the Major of the town, said: “The school director has received confirmation from Spain that the students did board the plane, with the teachers accompanying them.”
“Rescue services have not been able to reach the crash site which means we have no final confirmation, however we have to assume the worst.”
News of the tragedy has provoked an outpouring of grief, both at the Giola Secondary School, where the students were on exchange, and at the Gymnasium in Germany.
Anna Garcia, a pupil at the school in Spain, confirmed the events: “One of the German girls left a bag with all her travel documents inside at her host family’s home,” she said.
“So they didn’t hold the rest of the group up, the family took her to the airport and she was able to board the plane.”
Meanwhile, in Germany, there were emotional scenes as schoolmates of those killed in the disaster were seen comforting one another and laying flowers at the school gates.
One pupil, know only as Ibrahim, told a local TV station: “I lost a good friend on that plane, 15 years old, a beautiful girl with everything ahead of her. We are in bits here. We cannot take it in.”
The town’s Ruhr Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck said: “We have despatched pastoral workers across the town to help with the loss. It is the saddest day we have known.”
The plane, an Airbus A320 operated by the low-cost company Germanwings, was traveling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it disappeared off radar.
The plane began to lose altitude, caused by an unknown on-board emergency, eventually coming down the Alpes de Haute-Provence region, around two-and-a-half hours from the nearest village.
Germanwings, an arm of German national carrier Lufthansa, released a statement saying: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew members.”
It is believed that 150 people on board were killed in the crash.