WATCH ABOVE: Investigators in France came to the astonishing conclusion the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 deliberately crashed the Airbus 320. Stuart Greer reports from near the crash site in southern France.
- Authorities begin identifying victims through DNA sampling
- Police search co-pilot’s residence in Montabaur and his parent’s home in Duesseldorf
- Airlines in Europe and Canada implement new regulations for airline cockpits
- Co-pilot appears to have deliberately crashed the plane
TORONTO – The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 was alone at the helm of the aircraft and “intentionally” sent the plane into the doomed descent, according to a French prosecutor.
During a press conference Thursday, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot, identified as Andreas Lubitz, a German national, appeared to have wanted to “destroy the plane.”
The A320 began to descend midway through its flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf and crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday.
The account Thursday of the horrifying final moments of the German flight prompted some airlines, including all passenger Canadian airlines, to immediately impose stricter cockpit rules — and raised unsettling questions about the motivation behind the co-pilot, who seemingly loved his job and had no apparent connections to terrorism or criminal activity.
Robin said the information was pulled from the black box voice recorder. Officials have the transcription of the last 30 minutes of the flight in its entirety, he said.
Describing the first 20 minutes of the recording, the prosecutor said the conversation between the two pilots was normal and “in a manner that one could call playful, like normal pilots on a normal flight.”
Shortly after preparing their landing briefing, the captain is heard asking Lubitz to take command of the plane.
The co-pilot was silent once the captain left the cockpit.
“It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” Robin said.
At 10:30 a.m. local time, the Airbus A320 inexplicably began to descend and within eight minutes, the plane had plunged from 38,000 feet to about 6,000 feet before slamming into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board.
“It is then that the co-pilot uses the flight monitoring system button to put the plane into descend mode,” Robin said. “The action of altitude selection could not be anything but deliberate.”
According to Robin, the 28-year-old co-pilot had never been flagged as a terrorist.
Lubitz “voluntarily” refused to open the door of the cockpit, according to the French prosecutor.
“We hear several calls from the captain demanding to be let into the cockpit,” Robin explained. “There is no response from the co-pilot.”
Lubitz is heard breathing normally on the voice recorder and was alone until the plane’s impact, Robin said.
“We could also hear the contacts from the control tower in Marseille for several times but no response from the co-pilot,” the prosecutor said.
Robin said just before the plane hit the mountain, the sounds of passengers screaming could be heard on the audio.
“I think the victims realized just at the last moment,” he said.
The chilling details come as the families of some of the victims left France Thursday to visit the crash site.
Focus has turned to identifying the remains of the victims as the recovery efforts continue.
In Germany, investigators searched his apartment in Dusseldorf and his parents’ home in the small town of Montabaur. Acquaintances of Lubitz told the Associated Press he had shown no signs of depression when he returned to the town last year.
Lubitz had just renewed his glider pilot’s license in the fall.
“He was happy he had the job with Germanwings and he was doing well,” Peter Ruecker told the Associated Press. “He gave off a good feeling.”
The man is a member of the glider club Lubitz attended and watched him learn to fly.
During a press conference, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said he was “stunned” by French prosecutor’s findings that Germanwings co-pilot purposely downed Flight 9525.
Lufthansa said Lubitz joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly out of flight school, and had flown 630 hours. The captain had more than 6,000 hours of flying time and been a Germanwings pilot since May 2014, having previously flown for Lufthansa and Condor.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI has offered to help French investigators in the Germanwings crash.
“We stand ready to fulfil any requests for information,” FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said Thursday.
– with files from the Associated Press