The deadly Germanwings Flight 9525 airline crash in the French Alps that killed all 150 people aboard was no accident but appears to have been a deliberate act, according to authorities in France.
Prosecutors said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old German citizen, locked the plane’s captain out of the cockpit, then sent the Airbus A320 into a descent that ended in a pile of debris scattered across the side of a mountain. The flight was headed from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, and hit the mountain at 430 miles per hour, said French prosecutor Brice Robin.
The motive remains unclear, but Lubitz, who lived in Montabaur, Germany, does not have any apparent ties to terrorism, according to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.
“The intention was to destroy the plane,” Robin said. “Death was instant.”
Based on the plane’s black box recording of the flight, Robin said it’s unlikely passengers realized what was happening until it was too late. “You only hear the screams in the final seconds,” he said.
The three American victims have been identified as Yvonne Selke, her adult daughter Emily Selke, and Robert Oliver Calvo.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said he was “speechless that this aircraft has been deliberately crashed by the co-pilot.” Robin and Spohr refused to call the crash a suicide.
“If a person kills himself and also 149 other people, another word should be used — not suicide,” Spohr said Thursday. Lufthansa is Germanwings’s parent company.
Spohr said Lubitz had passed all training and psychological screening tests and had no record of past issues. Lufthansa does not require its pilots do not undergo regular psychological testing, and Spohr said his company did “not have any clues” why Lubitz crashed the plane. The company is providing “financial support” to the relatives of those lost in the crash.
Meanwhile, details about Lubitz slowly trickled out Thursday, March 26. He started working for Germanwings in 2013 and had logged 630 flight hours. But Spohr said he had stopped training for months without explanation.
Lubitz also had been a member of a LSC flying club in Germany since his youth.
“He started as a gliding student and managed to become a pilot of the Airbus A320. He succeeded in fulfilling his dream, a dream that he paid for with his life,” the club said in a statement posted on its website, which has since gone offline.
French authorities said the early part of the flight was routine but became contentious when the captain, identified by European media as Patrick Sonderheimer, started a briefing on landing the plane.
The captain then left the cockpit and was locked out. Robin said Lubitz then began to fly the plane lower.
“We hear several shouts from the captain asking to get in, speaking through the intercom system, but there’s no answer from the cockpit,” the prosecutor added.
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