Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appears to have hidden evidence of an illness from his employers, including having been excused by a doctor from work the day he crashed a passenger plane into a mountain, prosecutors said Friday.
The evidence came from the search of Lubitz’s homes in two German cities for an explanation of why he crashed the Airbus A320 into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Europe’s aviation safety agency is now recommending that airlines always have two people in the cockpit of a flying aircraft. European airlines, including the Lufthansa Group that includes Germanwings, were already committing to imposing the measure as soon as possible.
Prosecutors didn’t say what type of illness — mental or physical — Lubitz may have been suffering from. German media reported Friday that the 27-year-old had received treatment for depression.
Lufthansa could face “unlimited” compensation claims for the crash that killed 150 people in the French alps and it would be difficult, even counterproductive, for the German carrier to try to avoid liability, experts said Friday.
Under a treaty governing deaths and injuries aboard international flights, airlines are required to compensate relatives of victims for proven damages of up to a limit currently set at about $157,000 — regardless of what caused the crash.
But higher compensation is possible if a carrier is held liable.
“So more or less you will have unlimited financial damage,” said Marco Abate, a German aviation lawyer.
To avoid liability, a carrier has to prove that the crash wasn’t due to “negligence or other wrongful act” by its employees. But that would be a difficult argument to make when a pilot intentionally crashes a plane into a mountain, and one that Lufthansa would likely avoid as it could further damage the brand, Abate said.
Duesseldorf prosecutors’ office spokesman Ralf Herrenbrueck said in a written statement that torn-up sick notes for the day of the crash “support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues.”
Such sick notes from doctors excusing employees from work are common in Germany and issued even for minor illnesses.
Herrenbrueck said other medical documents found indicated “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment,” but that no suicide note was found. He added there was no indication of any political or religious motivation for Lubitz’s actions.
Germanwings and its parent company Lufthansa declined immediately to comment on the new information.
The European Aviation Safety Agency’s executive director, Patrick Ky, said “while we are still mourning the victims, all our efforts focus on improving the safety and security of passengers and crews.”
Report by The Associated Press
CCTV America interviewed Ann Rosen Spector about the possible state of mind of the co-pilot and general airline mental health practices. Spector is a Clinical psychologist.
Clinical psychologist Ann Rosen Spector mental health standards for pilotsCCTV America interviewed Ann Rosen Spector about the possible state of mind of the co-pilot and general airline mental health practices. Spector is a Clinical psychologist.
Recovery teams in the south of France continue the painstaking operation of retrieving debris and victims’ remains from the crash site.
CCTV’s Kate Parkinson filed this report form Seyne-les-Alpes.
Recovery teams search through debris and remains of crash site in French AlpsRecovery teams in the south of France continue the painstaking operation of retrieving debris and victims' remains from the crash site. CCTV's Kate Parkinson filed this report form Seyne-les-Alpes.
New regulations are aimed at preventing another tragedy like that of Flight 9525. Lawyers and insurance experts are sizing up the financial consequences of the disaster, and series of revelations about the co-pilot’s health are posing serious questions for Lufthansa.
CCTV’s Owen Fairclough filed this report from Washington.