DNA From 78 Germanwings Crash Victims Has Been Found, But It Could Be Weeks Before Everyone Is Identified

Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps nearly a week ago, and investigators are still combing the mountains for the plane's second black box. But they are closer to giving peace to affected families as DNA from 78 Germanwings crash victims has been identified in recovered human remains, authorities said Sunday night. However, they denied German media reports that they found the remains of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who investigators say deliberately crashed the plane carrying 144 passengers and five other crew members last Tuesday.

Authorities said that not a single body was found intact, and forensic workers are examining anywhere between 400 and 600 body parts that were recovered from the remote site. According to French news agency Agence France-Presse, there are 10 specialists on site to take DNA samples while five officials direct the investigation. An additional 40 technicians work nearby to compare DNA samples from the site to samples taken from victims' families and relatives. AFP reports that a local building has been transformed into a biological analysis unit while generators run in white tents. Investigators are also relying on jewelry and other objects to help in the identification process.

Police spokesman Xavier Vialenc said:

There's not much plane debris left. There's mainly a lot of body parts to pick up. The operation could last another two weeks.

French prosecutors said the Germanwings plane crashed into the mountains at more than 400 miles an hour, causing it to explode on impact. That made the likelihood for survivors extremely slim. French President Francois Hollande said at a ceremony last Wednesday that investigators would make every attempt in recovering victims' remains.

I assure you here that everything will be done to find the victims, identify them and return their bodies to their families.

As authorities continue to sort through debris to identify the remaining crash victims, they face the other daunting task of unearthing the missing second black box. The flight data recorder holds critical information that can help explain what technically led to the crash. The protective casing that normally holds the black box was found empty. German tabloid paper Bild published a transcript of what it claimed to be audio from the flight's voice recorder, outlining the harrowing final minutes of the doomed plane. The German Airline Pilots Association, however, told the BBC that investigators would need to recover the second black box in order to fully understand what caused the crash.