On Tuesday, Germanwings Flight 4U9525 crashed at the southern end of the French Alps, between the small communes of Digne and Barcelonnette. The region is largely inaccessible by foot due to the area's rugged terrain and steep mountains. However, the suspected crash site of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 may be close to several ski resorts, where tourists were currently staying in the off-peak season.
The mountains south of Barcelonnette are home to Pra Loup and Val d'Allos - La Foux, two of the biggest ski resorts in the southern Alps. These two resorts make up Espace Lumière, an extensive area of the southern Alps popular among skiers, snowboarders, and families looking for a holiday getaway. According to Ski France, the area has more than 80 ski runs and is located at altitudes between 4,500 and 8,500 feet.
French24 News reports that the final site of the crash was most likely Meolans-Revels. The site is close to the Pra Loup resort.
Given the amount of tourists in the area, it's possible that visitors or residents in the area heard the plane as it flew so close to the high terrain. CNN reports that a mountain guide who was close to the suspected site of the wreckage heard a low-flying plane right before the site of the crash.
Sandrine Boisse, president of the Pra Loup tourism office, also heard the plane as it descended into the area and crashed. "It was a deafening noise," Boisse told the Associated Press. "I thought it was an avalanche, although it sounded slightly different." She added that the noise was short, lasting just a few seconds.
Although this is a tourist-heavy area, the actual location of the site may be hard to get to, according to French authorities. The closest airport in the region is two hours away in Nice, and though there are trains nearby the resorts, the site of the Germanwings crash is more remote. The terrain of the crash site is steep and inaccessible, the French Interior Minister said in a Facebook update on Tuesday afternoon.
Here are some views of the popular skiing area in the French Alps...
This part of the southern Alps is also home to numerous camping sites. One camping site owner told Al Jazeera that he allegedly heard the Germanwings plane as it made its seemingly controlled yet rapid descent into the mountains. "There was a loud noise and then suddenly nothing," Pierre Polizzi told Al Jazeera. "The plane crashed just 2 kilometers from here, high on a mountain."
Image: Getty Images