SEYNE-LES-ALPES, FRANCE — Dozens of grieving relatives of Germanwings plane crash victims arrived in the French Alps on Thursday, brought in on special flights and buses to pay tribute to the 150 lives lost in the tragedy.
Two charter planes carrying family members landed in the French city of Marseille early Thursday, where seven buses — many with blacked out windows — waited to bring them into the mountains.
A calvacade of police motorcycles escorted the somber group to Seyne Les-Alpes, which has become the hub of recovery and search efforts following Tuesday's crash. The mourners — many clutching flowers and leaning on each other for support — were escorted into a makeshift chapel for a memorial service.
The buses then brought the mourners to the Alpine hamlet of Le Vernet to visit a new monument erected in their relatives' memories.
Some relatives stopped to take photos while others stared off into the mountain range when they were led to a clearing closest to the crash site. Small groups held each other, hugging and crying, as flags from the victims' home nations were unfurled.
Officials, translators and psychologists were on hand as the family members paid tribute to their loved ones amid a stunning mountain backdrop.
The mayor of Seyne Les-Alpes — which has been transformed into a hub of recovery operations and emergency services — said more than 100 locals have offered lodging for the families.
"We have a cell in place with pyschologists, translators from different countries who spontaneously offered to assist and support the families," Francis Hermitte added.
The families were informed before the visit of the startling revelation that the plane's co-pilot appears to have intentionally brought down the flight, French investigators said.
After about an hour in the clearing, the relatives slowly boarded the buses as search helicopters flew overhead. Many of the mourners appeared reluctant to leave. As one sobbing woman struggled, a female police officer stepped in for support.