Of the 150 people killed onboard the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed Tuesday morning in the French Alps, 45 were Spaniards making their way from Barcelona to the German city of Dusseldorf, Spanish media is reporting.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said 45 Spaniards were among the passengers on board the plane, while Spain's airport operator AENA had already confirmed Spaniards and Germans were traveling in the plane.
The plane left Barcelona at 9:55 a.m. Germanwings Official Thomas Winkelmann said it began descending again shortly after it reached its cruising height of 38,000 feet following takeoff from Barcelona Airport. The descent lasted eight minutes, he told reporters in Cologne. Radar and air traffic control contact with the plane broke off at 10:53 a.m. at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.
The plane crashed in a mountainous zone in the French Alps at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,550 feet), said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the French Interior Ministry spokesman.
Winkelmann said the pilot had more than 10 years' experience working for Germanwings and its parent airline Lufthansa. Airbus said the A320 was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991.
Germanwings said Flight 9525 carried 144 passengers, including two babies, and 6 crew members.
There was no obvious reason why the plane should have crashed in the middle of its flight and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged people not to speculate on the cause. In Washington, the White House said American officials were in contact with French, Spanish and German counterparts.
In Barcelona, crews were scanning the runway for any information that could help to clarify the causes of the accident and the Catalan regional government set up a crisis unit in order to provide information on the accident with the telephone number 012. Spain's airport operator AENA set up a hotline for families, while psychologists will arrive at the airport to provide support to the families of victims.
Spanish King Felipe VI, who is in Paris for a state visit, met with French President Francois Hollande and announced that he was canceling his trip to southern France due to the plane crash.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.