ReutersDebris from crashed Germanwings Airbus A320 are seen in the mountains, near Seyne-les-Alpes, March 24, 2015.
Investigators now believe that the German co-pilot of Flight 4U9525 deliberately sought to “destroy the plane.”
- The lead French prosecutor says the co-pilot likely locked the captain out of the cockpit, then started the plane’s descent.
- The co-pilot “voluntarily” refused to open the door, according to the French prosecutor, and his breathing was normal throughout the final minutes of the flight.
- Officials named the co-pilot as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, a German. He was deemed competent and “100% fit.”
French officials believe that the co-pilot who was locked in the cockpit of the Germanwings plane that crashed this week “intentionally” began the rapid descent that sent the aircraft plummeting into the French alps.
On Tuesday, an Airbus A320 flying from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany crashed into the French alps, killing all 150 people on board.
“This was not an accident,” Marseille public prosecutor Brice Robin said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that it was the co-pilot’s “intention to destroy this plane.”
The co-pilot could reportedly be heard breathing from when the captain left the cockpit until the plane crashed, but he did not say a word.
“It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” Robin said.
Lufthansa said in a statement on its Twitter feed: “We have just learned of the shocking comments of the French prosecutor in which is said that the co-pilot apparently deliberately crashed the plan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.”
A senior French military official with knowledge of a cockpit voice recording from the plane told The New York Times on Wednesday that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit and could not get back in before the plane crashed, killing all 150 people on board.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator told the Times. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer. … You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
Officials named the co-pilot as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, a German. French officials did not specify his religious or ethnic background and emphasised that investigators do not think the crash was an act of terrorism, but rather a suicide.
Lubitz reportedly input the command to start the plane’s descent after the captain left the cockpit.
When the captain started his mid-flight briefing on the landing of the plane, Lubitz’s responses reportedly became “curt,” the Associated Press reports.
“It’s obvious this co-pilot took advantage of the commander’s absence,” Robin said. “Could he have known he would leave? It is too early to say.”
Lufthansa stated that the co-pilot joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours. CEO Carsten Spohr said that Lubitz was competent and ‘100% fit’ in all areas.
Germany’s top security official said that there are “no indications of any kind of terrorist background” to the crash, and Germany’s interior minister said that a background check of Lubitz didn’t reveal anything untoward.
The cries of passengers could be heard on the plane’s black box voice recorder, according to officials. Alarms were going off before the plane crashed, but the co-pilot reportedly refused to open the cockpit door.
“Passengers didn’t know what was happening until the last minute,” the French prosecutor said at the press conference.
The passengers reportedly died instantly. The plane crashed into the mountains at about 435 miles per hour.
Segolene Royal, a top government minister whose portfolio includes transport, said on Tuesday that what happened between 10:30 a.m. and 10:31 a.m. is key because air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane during that two minutes.
“To me, it seems very weird: this very long descent at normal speed without any communications, though the weather was absolutely clear,” the official told the Times.
During the rescue effort, investigators found one of two black boxes.
The black box voice recorder records audio from four microphones in the cockpit as well as recording all the conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers.
The French military official noted the conversations between pilots were “very smooth, very cool” during the early portion of the Barcelona-to-Düsseldorf flight.
Lufthansa said the captain had more than 6,000 hours of flying time and been Germanwings pilot since May 2014.
“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out,” the official told the Times. “But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”
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