The boss of the airline involved in the French Alps disaster said today he was “stunned” that the plane might have been deliberately crashed by its co-pilot. The dramatic revelation came as tearful tributes were being paid by the family of a Yorkshireman named among the 150 victims.
Germanwings crash co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had an off-work sick note for the day of the disaster and was also a patient at a Dusseldorf hospital.
German prosecutors are now pouring over the medical history of Lubitz, 28, who deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 into the French Alps last Tuesday killing all 150 people on board, including three Britons.
There were also reports that the captain locked out of the flight deck after Lubitz put the plane into a descent had used an axe in an unsuccessful to break down the cockpit door.
The sick note was among items found when police searched Lubitz’s apartment in Dusseldorf.
“Documents with medical contents were confiscated that point towards an existing illness and corresponding treatment by doctors,” said the prosecutors’ office in Dusseldorf.
The office went on: “The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues.”
The prosecutors said the search had found no suicide note or confession, “nor was there any evidence of a political or religious background to what happened”.
Dusseldorf University Hospital said in a statement today that Lubitz had been a patient and had last came to the hospital for “diagnostic evaluation” on March 10. It declined to provide details about his condition but denied German media reports that it had treated the pilot for depression.
The hospital says it has submitted Lubitz’s patient record to prosecutors in Dusseldorf, where he lived.
A German aviation official said today that Lubitz’s file at the country’s Federal Aviation Office contained a “SIC” note, meaning that he needed “specific regular medical examination”.
But neighbours described a man whose physical health was superb.
“He definitely did not smoke. He really took care of himself. He always went jogging. I am not sure whether he did marathons, but he was very healthy,” said Johannes Rossmann, who lived a few doors down from Lubitz’s other home in Montabaur.
Earlier, France’s prime minister called on Lufthansa to provide all information about Lubitz.
Manuel Valls said that Lufthansa should give the maximum of information “so that we can understand why this pilot got to the point of this horrific action”.
Following the lead of a number of other airlines including some UK carriers, Germanwing’s parent airline Lufthansa said it was introducing new procedures that would mean that two authorised persons had to be in the cockpit at all times during a flight.
Germanwings, which has asked for its adverts to be taken down from London Underground stations, was setting up a family assistance centre in the French city of Marseille. It added that family briefings would start tomorrow.
GERMANWINGS PILOT’S SPEECH PRAISED
A Germanwings passenger has shared her moving experience flying with the airline just a day after the French Alps plane disaster.
Britta Englisch posted a message on the airline’s Facebook page describing the emotional moment the pilot reassured passengers they would be safe with him.
In the post, she said she boarded the flight from Hamburg to Cologne in Germany with “mixed feelings”.
“But then the captain did not only personally say hello to every passenger but gave a speech before take-off,” she wrote. “Not from the cockpit, but from the cabin.
“About how he and the crew had been affected by the tragedy. About how the crew feel strange as well, but all of them were there voluntarily.
“And about how he has a family too, the crew have families too, and that he will do anything to make sure he will arrive back with them in the evening.
“It was completely quiet. And then the whole plane applauded.
“I would like to thank this captain. For understanding what we all thought. And for making me feel good about the flight.”