American crash victims: US government contractor, daughter

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 5:40 PM
American crash victims: US government contractor, daughter

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Americans were presumed dead in the plane crash in the southern French Alps, including a U.S. government contractor and her daughter, the State Department said Wednesday.

Identified victims were Yvonne Selke of Nokesville, Virginia, an employee for 23 years at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in Washington, and her daughter, Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia. The U.S. government did not identify the third American it said was on the plane.

Yvonne Selke performed work under contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's satellite mapping office, Booz Allen and the Defense Department confirmed in statements after the AP had reported her identity and employment.

"Every death is a tragedy, but seldom does a death affect us all so directly and unexpectedly," NGA Director Robert Cardillo said. "All of us offer our deepest condolences and will keep her family and her colleagues in our thoughts."

Booz Allen's chief personnel officer, Betty Thompson, described Selke as "a wonderful co-worker and a dedicated employee who spent her career with the firm."

Friends and co-workers of Selke's circulated a photograph of her showing a smiling, middle-aged woman with brown hair and eyeglasses, and a photo of Emily showing a blond young woman with dark eyes and a bright smile. They described Selke as a diligent and generous worker who regularly brought cookies to co-workers.

A person who answered the phone at Selke's home said the family was not providing any information.

Emily Selke was a "go-getter" who was interested in festival management while in school, said Xela Batchelder, a Drexel professor who taught her. Batchelder said Emily Selke participated in Fringe University, which holds courses around the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an arts festival in Scotland. She also helped put together the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.

"She just kept being a self-learner even after school," Batchelder said. "We're just really upset, and we'll really miss her and she's just an amazing person."

Alex Tyler, who was a friend at Drexel, sent a statement to the AP that she said was written by a group of her close friends.

"Emily was a truly amazing woman, and we were honored to have her in our lives," the statement said. "She was an incredibly fun person who never shied away from a challenge. Emily grew our hearts with acceptance of everyone and grew our minds with new music and her love of travel. She was a light that shined in our lives, and we will always remember her with a smile on her face and a funny story to share."

Drexel University said in a statement that Emily Selke graduated with honors in 2013 and was a music industry major. Her sorority at Drexel, Gamma Sigma Sigma, said in a statement on its Facebook page with a photo of Emily that it was mourning her loss and said she "always put others before herself and cared deeply for all those in her life."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was reviewing records to determine whether any other U.S. citizens might have been on board the flight.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 150 people on board," Psaki said.

Further details about Yvonne Selke's work for the secretive Pentagon agency were not immediately available. Most information about her assignment and contact information had already been removed Wednesday from Booz Allen's internal network.

The Germanwings A320 lost radio contact with air traffic controllers over the southern French Alps during a seemingly routine flight Tuesday from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany, before crashing, killing all 150 on board.

French officials said terrorism appeared unlikely, and Germany's top security official said Wednesday there was no evidence of foul play. French investigators were opening the jet's mangled black box they recovered, hoping the cockpit recordings inside would help them unlock the mystery of what caused the crash.

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Associated Press writer Sean Carlin in Philadelphia contributed to this report.