Prosecutors have claimed that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who is thought to have deliberately caused the plane crash that killed 150 people on Tuesday, was concealing the details of an illness from his employers.
The German investigators who searched Lubitz's Düsseldorf apartment have apparently discovered a torn-up sick note, though they did not specify what was written on it. Germanwings responded to these latest findings by saying that a sick note was never presented to the company.
Attempts to determine exactly what caused the tragedy of Germanwings flight 4U9525 have been frantically continuing since the revelations by Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin on Thursday morning that the plane had been "deliberately" crashed.
Co-pilot Lubitz, a 28-year-old German citizen, was in charge of the flight, when it plummeted into the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers and six staff on board.
Speculation is rife about Lubitz's mental state, and particular focus has been directed on a six-month break he took from pilot training in 2009, a period when acquaintances have suggested he was suffering from "burn-out syndrome."
On Friday, German tabloid Bild claimed that Lubitz had spent one and a half years in psychiatric treatment. They also put the break in his training down to a "serious depressive episode." The paper also reported that Lufthansa flight school in Phoenix, Arizona, had designated Lubitz "not suitable for flying," though VICE News has not been able to independently verify this.
Germany's Federal Aviation Office has also said that Lubitz had a medical condition that was documented in his pilot's medical certificate, though there is no indication of exactly what this refers to.
Meanwhile, Lubitz's acquaintances, as well as other pilots, have appealed to the public to be cautious about jumping to judgment before all the facts of the case are known.
Ilja Schulz, president of the German Airline Pilots Association, told the Independent: "We should not rush to conclusions based upon limited data." She added: "The reasons that led to this tragic accident will only be determined after all data sources have been thoroughly examined."
However, people that knew Lubitz said he seemed happy and content with his job when they last saw him. Other commentators have pointed out that mental illness — and particularly depression — is not something that causes someone to "voluntarily" crash a plane with 149 others on it.
Germanwings have strongly expressed their shock and horror at the prosecutor's findings. In a statement, the company said they were "stunned" to learn "that the airplane we lost in southern France was to all appearances made to crash by deliberate act — presumably by the co-pilot."
In a statement released on Friday morning, Germanwings said that they are in the process of setting up a family assistance center in Marseilles, France. On Thursday, friends and families of the victims traveled to the city on three special flights from both Düsseldorf and Barcelona. They then attended a memorial service in Seyne-les-Alpes, a town close to the remote crash site. Another flight will travel from Barcelona on Friday. Germanwings have said that the mourners may stay in Marseilles, or can opt to return home at any time.
The crash marked the deadliest aviation disaster in France since 1974. The plane impacted on the rugged terrain at high speed, and the debris area expands to the size of around three to four football fields, according to the New York Times.
The victims included two babies, 16 high school exchange students, newlyweds, opera singers, Iranian journalists, and citizens from countries including Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the UK, the US, and Venezuela.
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