(CNN) — Latest developments:
• 7:51 p.m. ET: One of the pilots on board Germanwings Flight 9525 was locked out of the cockpit when the plane crashed Tuesday, a senior military official told The New York Times, citing evidence from the cockpit voice recorder.
• Helicopters have airlifted some victims’ remains from the site of the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps, the Gendarmerie said Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate France 2.
• FBI agents based in France, Germany and Spain are looking through intelligence sources and cross-referencing the passenger manifest of Germanwings Flight 9525, two senior law enforcement officials said. So far, their search hasn’t turned up anything that “stands out” or anything linking the passengers to criminal activity, according to one official.
• The victims of the Germanwings crash came from 18 countries, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann told reporters Wednesday. He also vowed to provide flights for victims’ family members who want to travel to Germany or France and help them financially.
• Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters the company was struggling to understand how an airplane that “was in perfect technical condition” with two experienced pilots “was involved in such a terrible accident.” The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps, he said, “represents the darkest hours in the 60-year history of our Lufthansa Group.”
“We all are still in a state of deep shock,” he said.
Investigators scoured dangerous terrain in the French Alps Wednesday as they searched for clues in the wreckage of Germanwings Flight 9525.
Workers dropped to the crash site from helicopters and had to be tied together because the steep area in the French Alps is so treacherous, said Remi Jouty, head of the BEA, the French aviation investigative arm leading the probe.
There’s one key piece of evidence they’ve found so far that could help investigators determine why the Airbus A320 went down: the cockpit voice recorder, one of the aircraft’s so-called black boxes.
Although the external orange casing was damaged, French aviation investigators accessed the computer chips inside, which contain an audio recording of the cockpit during the entire flight.
That will provide important information like whether the pilots were talking in the moments leading up to the crash, what they were saying and what else was happening in the cockpit.
Finding the plane’s second black box will be critical to understanding the mystery of what went on inside the jet.
That box, the flight data recorder, hasn’t been found yet, but Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said Wednesday that there’s a high probability it will be.
Spohr said Tuesday’s plane crash “represents the darkest hours” in the history of his company, which owns Germanwings.
Officials are struggling to understand how an airplane that “was in perfect technical condition” with two experienced pilots “was involved in such a terrible accident,” he said.
But even worse, he said, is seeing the heartbreak of the relatives and friends of the victims who perished in the crash.
“What they have gone through is, of course, incomprehensible,” he said, describing what he said was an emotional meeting between the relatives and airline executives Wednesday.
And now, he said, the company’s focus will be taking care of them.
Special Lufthansa flights will take relatives and friends of victims to southern France on Thursday, so they can be near the search scene, he said.
“We need to understand what happened,” French President Francois Hollande said. “We owe that to the families.”
Victims from 18 countries
The doomed flight was traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, when it crashed Tuesday in the French Alps.
Germanwings said the plane reached its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, and then dropped for about eight minutes. The plane lost contact with French radar at a height of about 6,000 feet. Then it crashed.
There were 150 people from 18 countries on board.
Teams have begun the daunting task of identifying the victims’ bodies, but caution that it could take time to complete.
Clues in the debris
Investigators are still trying to piece together what caused the crash.
Jouty, the head of the investigation team, said the debris suggests the plane hit the ground and then broke apart, instead of exploding in flight.
Radar followed the plane “virtually to the point of impact” in the Alps in southern France, Jouty said. The flight’s last altitude recorded by radar was just over 6,000 feet.
Officials have said that while they have not ruled out terrorism, it seems unlikely.
FBI agents based in France, Germany and Spain are looking through intelligence sources and cross referencing the passenger manifest of Germanwings Flight 9525, two senior law enforcement officials said. So far, their search hasn’t turned up anything that “stands out” or anything linking the passengers to criminal activity, according to one official.