As Germany struggled to come to terms with the devastating Germanwings air disaster, grief turned to anger Thursday as investigators said the co-pilot likely downed the jet deliberately.
Germans made up half of the 150 people who were killed when the Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, according to the latest released by the foreign ministry in Berlin.
And of those, 16 were teen school students from the northwestern town of Haltern returning from a week-long exchange trip in Barcelona.
The findings that the 28-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, appeared to have crashed the plane intentionally left the small community reeling.
"Personally, I`m stunned, angry, speechless and deeply shocked," Haltern`s mayor Bodo Klimpel told a news conference.
"I`m asking myself when this nightmare will end. It`s bad enough for the families to learn of the death of loved ones in an accident. But when it`s clear that an individual may possibly have deliberately caused the accident, it takes on an even worse dimension," Klimpel said.
Ulrich Wessel, the headmaster of the Joseph Koenig Gymnasium where the teenagers went to school, said it would have been easier for the families if a technical defect had caused the crash.
"It could have been corrected so as to prevent other incidents happening in future," Wessel said.
"But what makes all of us so angry (is) that a suicide can lead to the deaths of 149 other people," the ashen-faced teacher said. "It leaves us angry, perplexed, stunned."
The headmaster said he did not want to speculate about what may have driven Lubitz to crash the jet.
"We don`t know whether he was psychologically ill, and whether he was in a position to gauge the consequences of his decision. That would be speculation. I can`t begin to answer how the parents are feeling," he added. The authorities also expressed shock at the horrific turn of events.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said the investigators` findings added an "absolutely unimaginable dimension" to the tragedy.
And they represented "another terrible new burden for the victims` families," she said.
"In this hour, these days of suffering, our special thoughts go out to them again," the German leader said.
The head of Germanwings` parent company Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr, said that "in our worst nightmares we could not have imagined that this kind of tragedy could happen to us.
"I could not have imagined feeling more than shocked and shattered than we already do. But what we`ve learned today has intensified that," he said.
Spohr insisted that the co-pilot Lubitz, who had trained at with Lufthansa and worked at Germanwings since 2013, was "100-percent airworthy."
His professional performance and behaviour had never attracted cause for concern, Spohr said.
And in the small western town of Montabaur where he lived with his parents, neighbours said they had no idea what might have led him to bring down the plane.
A man in this 50s who gave his name only as Hans-Dieter travelled to Montabaur to see Lubitz`s home where he lived with his parents.
"I wanted to know where the murderer lived," he said.
"He`s like the guy in Norway who started shooting people," referring to Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who murdered 77 people in 2011.