Fresh anguish for Germanwings volunteers caught in Paris stadium

by Reuters
Saturday, 14 November 2015 14:59 GMT

By Tim Hepher

DUBAI, Nov 14 (Reuters) - More than a thousand volunteers who intervened after the Germanwings jet crash were among those trapped inside the Stade de France by Friday's attacks, dashing efforts to reward their role in tackling another harrowing event.

The rampage that killed 127 people began with an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Paris stadium where French President Francois Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly soccer match between France and Germany.

Among the crowd were 1,200 emergency workers and volunteers brought in by chartered train by Germany's Lufthansa, owner of the Germanwings jet that crashed into the Alps in March. Prosecutors believe a co-pilot suffering severe depression deliberately crashed the Airbus jet, killing 150 people.

"It was supposed to be an evening of French and German celebration and appreciation after that tragic event," Airbus communications chief Rainer Ohler, who was in the stadium with the planemaker's chief executive Tom Enders, said of the match.

"We heard the explosions and at first nobody thought of terrorism. It was only when President Hollande left and people started getting phone messages that we realised what was going on," he told Reuters in Dubai by telephone.

Also present were the heads of Germany's Lufthansa , the parent of Germanwings, and Air France-KLM.

Lufthansa declined to comment on the attacks but said its staff and all of those it had invited were safe.

In a letter to staff, German-born Enders said Airbus stood united against "barbarian attacks" and supported all Parisians.

"Nous sommes unis! (We are united!) We are all impacted by the tragic terror attacks in Paris. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all the people in Paris," he said.

The aviation industry is already bracing for a security clampdown following the recent crash of a Russian airliner in Egypt, which Islamic State militants claim to have brought down.

Now it faces concerns over travel cancellations, while the Germanwings crash has prompted calls for better pilot screening.

Although their causes contrast sharply, the two crashes are "game-changers" that could lead to draconian new international demands on aviation security, the head of Dubai's Emirates said this week. (Additional reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Digby Lidstone)

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