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Germanwings Co-Pilot Researched Suicide Methods and Cockpit Doors

French authorities investigating the crash have also retrieved the aircraft's second black box.

by Matthieu Jublin
Apr 2 2015, 10:50pm

Image via Flickr / Matt_Weibo

The Germanwings co-pilot who is suspected of deliberately bringing down Flight 9525 in the French Alps last week had searched online for suicide methods and researched cockpit doors, a German prosecutor said Thursday.

As this new information, which was discovered during an analysis of a tablet device found at 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz's Dusseldorf apartment, was revealed today, French authorities investigating the crash retrieved the aircraft's second black box. Police found the device buried in the ground, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said today, adding that it seemed to be in a "usable" condition.

The preliminary results of the ongoing investigation into the crash, which was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it slammed into a mountain on March 24, killing 150 people, show that Lubitz intentionally started the plane's descent after locking the captain out of the cockpit.

Related: Germanwings Co-Pilot Appears to Have Deliberately Crashed Plane, According to French Prosecutor

Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin confirmed Thursday that experts had isolated 150 DNA profiles from the remains found at the crash site, but that final identification of all of the victims could take up to five weeks.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr and Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann traveled to the crash site Wednesday. On Tuesday, Lufthansa revealed it had found emails dating back to 2009, in which Lubitz informed the company's training school of an "episode of severe depression."

German daily Bild reported Thursday that Lubitz had lied to several doctors, telling them he was on sick leave while he was still working as a co-pilot.

Meanwhile, relatives have identified the flight's pilot as 34-year-old Patrick Sondenheimer, who had recently joined Germanwings, the low-cost carrier of the Lufthansa Group, to fly shorter routes and spend more time with his family, including his 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Ever since Sondenheimer's grandmother confirmed his identity to CNN, tributes to the pilot have emerged on social networks.

Records from the flight recorder show that Sondenheimer made repeated attempts to open the cockpit door and attempted to break it with an axe. Speaking to French daily Le Figaro, French pilot Patrick Magisson explained that, "since September 11, the axe is usually stored in the cockpit," but that some airlines store them in "discreet locations elsewhere on the plane."

The crash of Flight 9525 has thrown a spotlight on cockpit security - which had incidentally been addressed in a sadly prophetic article, published by a Dutch pilot two months before the Germanwings crash. The article, titled "Can You Open the Door?," highlighted the security risks linked to cockpit doors, and pointed out that an aircraft pilot could easily keep his colleague locked out of the cabin.

On Tuesday, Bild and French magazine Paris Match claimed to have access to a video of the final seconds of Flight 9525. French authorities have since cast doubt over the authenticity of the footage, but have said than if any such document exists, it should be handed over to investigators.

Investigative website Breaking3zero, as well as French news site Rue 89, have since pointed out that the description of the footage matches the video of an emergency landing in Japan in December 2014, in which five people were injured.

American Airlines Flight AA280 diverted to Narita Airport in Tokyo after being hit by winter storm, several hurt.

Image via Flickr / Matt_Weibo