A helicopter crew has found no survivors after landing near the remote area where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps today, French PM Manuel Valls says. "Everything is pulverized," a local lawmaker adds. "The largest debris is the size of a car." One of the plane's black boxes has been recovered, says an Interior Ministry rep. The plane was carrying 144 passengers and six crew from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when it crashed after an unexplained eight-minute descent, the AP reports. Germanwings' CEO says the plane began descending about one minute after it reached its cruising height, 44 minutes into the flight, the Guardian reports. Two babies and a party of 16 children and two teachers on a class trip are believed to have been on board, Reuters reports. Approximately 45 passengers were Spaniards and 67 were Germans, according to reports.
Germanwings has said the airline received "contradictory information" about whether the plane made a distress call, but a rep for France's aviation regulator tells Reuters the jetliner did not. Instead, air traffic controllers implemented a distress phase, the most serious of three stages of alerts, due to "the combination of the loss of radio contact and the aircraft's descent." The owner of a camping ground in the Alps says he heard odd noises before the plane went down. "There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside but I couldn't see any fighter planes," he says. "The noise I heard was long—like eight seconds—as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise about 30 seconds later." The plane was given a routine technical check yesterday and last underwent a major inspection in 2013.