Seyne-Les-Alpes (France), Mar 31: With a new road built to the crash site of the doomed Germanwings plane in the French Alps, investigators on Tuesday resumed their grim search through debris and body parts.
Three trucks set off from the drop zone in Seynes-les-Alpes early in the morning after a hectic 48-hour road-building operation to ease access to the remote mountainside. [Germanwings crash co-pilot Andreas Lubitz body parts found]
"It means we can work faster, later and bring back more items," said one police officer.
Trucks now take 45 minutes to reach the base of the rocky slope where debris remains spread across some two hectares (five acres), while two helicopters hover overhead to check for pieces that may have been flung further afield.
Somewhere in there lies the second "black box" recorder, which gathered technical data on the flight, and has yet to be found. Search teams are having to dig into the loose earth on the assumption the black box has been buried, the policeman said.
He added they have removed more than 4,000 pieces of plane and human remains. The search was expected to finish by April 8, after which a civilian clean-up group, funded by airline owner Lufthansa, will tidy up the site.
It is exactly a week since the Germanwings jet crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board instantly. Authorities believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately set the plane on a collision course with the mountain and are scouring his background for a possible motive.
In a lab outside Paris, the process of identifying victims is underway but could take "between two and four months," said one of the police forensic team. They are already working with around 400 human samples from the site, and had identified 78 distinct DNA strands by the weekend.
Many more samples -- each only a few millimetres in size -- are expected in the coming weeks. The team warned that some of the victims may never be identified due to the violence of the plane's impact, which hit the mountain at 700 km/h.
French investigators said today they would now concentrate on "the systemic weaknesses" that might have caused the disaster, including the logic of locking cockpit doors from the inside, which was introduced in 2001 to thwart terrorist attacks.
It said it would also look into procedures for detecting "specific psychologic profiles" in pilots after indications that Lubitz may have suffered from depression.
German prosecutors said that before he became a pilot in 2013, Lubitz had been treated for "suicidal tendencies" but that doctors had found nothing recently that could have pointed to last Tuesday's events.