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Germanwings crash victims honoured on eve of anniversary
[BARCELONA] Hundreds of people in Spain and Germany took part in anniversary vigils Wednesday to mark the Germanwings tragedy in which a suicidal pilot crashed a plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 on board.
Ceremonies were held at the airports in Barcelona from where the ill-fated plane took off on March 24, 2015, and in Dusseldorf, its intended destination in western Germany.
Plaques in memory of those killed when the airline went down in the French Alps were unveiled at both airports.
Dozens of relatives of the 50 Spanish victims, many dressed in black, attended the ceremony outside of Barcelona's Terminal 2 on the eve of the tragedy's first anniversary.
They were joined by emergency services workers who took part in the rescue operation as well as top officials including Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
"Transportation security must continue to be one of our main priorities," Rajoy said.
Flags flew at half mast and 149 candles were lit in memory of the passengers and crew who were kiled.
Investigators said German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz waited until he was alone in the cockpit shortly after the flight took off then deliberately crashed the plane.
The 27-year-old had previously been treated for depression and suicidal tendencies and documents seized by prosecutors show he partly hid his medical history from employers.
"We want to avoid the repetition of catastrophes of this nature," said Silvia Chaves, who heads an association for the Spanish victims.
"We must work to improve security measures because we all know that in this case, they failed." After the tragedy, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommended that airlines enure at least two crew members, including at least one qualified pilot, are in the flight crew compartment at all times.
Germanwings and its parent company Lufthansa have denied any wrongdoing, insisting the co-pilot had been certified as fit to fly.
At Dusseldorf airport's main terminal, family members of the 72 German victims gathered in a "quiet room" which had been dedicated to the memory of 17 people killed in a fire at the airport in 1996.
Some 600 family and friends of victims of the doomed Germanwings flight will also attend a ceremony in the French Alps on Thursday to mark the year anniversary of the crash.
The ceremony will take place in Vernet village near where the plane went down. No government officials will take part in what is expected to be completely private memorial.
"The families do not wish for their pain to be filmed," said local French official Bernard Guerin.
Plans to take relatives to visit the crash site by minibus were called off because bad weather has made the forest road leading to it impassable.
Around 80 people, aided by volunteer firefighters and mountain guides, will however climb on foot to the site, which is at an altitude of some 1,500 metres (4,900 feet).
The pilot's family will not be present.
At the ceremony, the names of all 149 victims will be read out followed by a minute of silence which will take place at 0941 GMT, the exact moment of the crash. A wreath will also be laid at the Vernet cemetery where the remains of unidentified body parts were buried.