Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Copilot might have deliberately crashed plane: prosecutor

Reuters, PARIS and SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France

A woman lights candles in a church in the town of Seyne-les-Alpes, France, yesterday, two days after a Germanwings Airbus A320 smashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

Photo: AFP

The copilot of the Germanwings airplane that crashed in the French Alps killing all 150 people aboard appears to have brought the A320 Airbus down deliberately, a Marseille prosecutor said yesterday.

German Andreas Lubitz, 28, left in sole control of the Airbus A320 after the captain left the cockpit, refused to reopen the door and operated a control that sent the aircraft into its final, fatal descent, the prosecutor told a news conference.

The French prosecutor said Lubitz was not known as a terrorist and there were no grounds to consider the crash as a terrorist incident. Recordings suggested passengers’ screams began just before the final impact, he said.

Earlier, a German state prosecutor had said that just one of the two pilots of the Germanwings plane was in the cockpit at the time it went down.

The statements came after the New York Times reported that “black box” recordings showed one of the pilots had left the cockpit and could not get back in before the airplane crashed.

“One was in the cockpit and the other wasn’t,” Christoph Kumpa at the prosecutors’ office in Dusseldorf, Germany, said by phone, adding that the information came from investigators in France.

Investigators were still studying voice recordings from one of the black boxes yesterday, while the search continued for a second day in the ravine where the plane crashed, 100km from Nice.

The recordings did not make clear why the pilot left the cockpit or why he could not regain entry as the plane steadily descended toward a mountain range in a remote area of the French Alps on Tuesday.

“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” an investigator described only as a senior French military official told the New York Times, citing the recordings. “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,” the investigator added.

The cockpit audio had showed “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots in the early part of the flight.

“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out,” the official said. “But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”

A spokesman for Germanwings’ owner Lufthansa said: “We have no information from the authorities that confirms this report and we are seeking more information. We will not take part in speculation on the causes of the crash.”

It confirmed that the main pilot had more than 6,000 hours of flying time, while the more junior copilot had just 630 hours and had been with Germanwings since September 2013.

In France, the interior and defense ministries said they had no information on the newspaper report. Lufthansa announced it would hold a briefing later in the day.

France’s BEA air investigation bureau was not available for comment. On Wednesday, it said it was too early to draw meaningful conclusions on why the plane went down.

“We have not yet been able to study and to establish an exact timing for all the sounds and words heard on this file,” BEA director Remi Jouty told a news conference.

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