A young German co-pilot locked himself alone in the cockpit of a Germanwings airliner and flew it into a mountain with what appears to have been the intent to destroy it, a French prosecutor said on Thursday.
Investigators and grieving relatives were left struggling to explain what motivated Andreas Lubitz, 28, to kill all 150 people on board the Airbus A320, including himself, in Tuesday's crash in the French Alps.
French and German officials said there was no indication the crash was a terrorist attack, but gave no alternative explanation for his motives.
"Lubitz gained sole control of the aircraft after the captain left the cockpit. He refused to re-open the door and sent the plane into its fatal descent," Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.
He did this "for a reason we cannot fathom right now but which looks like intent to destroy this aircraft," Robin told a news conference in Marseille broadcast live on national TV.
Describing the final 10 minutes of the passengers on board as the plane hurtled towards a mountain range, Robin said sound recordings from one of its black boxes suggested most of them would not have been aware of their fate until the very end.
"Only towards the end do you hear screams," he said. "And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous the aircraft was literally smashed to bits."
The CEO of Lufthansa, parent company of Germanwings, said its air crew were picked carefully and subjected to psychological vetting.
"No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar and we have incredibly high standards there is no way to rule out such an event," CEO Carsten Spohr said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2015.
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