Preliminary findings of investigations regarding the Airbus A320 plane that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday indicate that the German co-pilot of the Germanwings aircraft, Andreas Lubitz, 28, voluntarily crashed the plane despite the absence of an evidence suggesting that it was a terrorist act.
French General Prosecutor Brice Robin announced the findings after analyzing the audio recording extracted from the plane's black box, which revealed in part what happened inside the cockpit during the last 30 minutes of the flight, which was en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany, with 150 people on board.
Robin's initial version of the story is inclined to the hypothesis that the co-pilot suffered a psychological imbalance, although he did not rule out other possibilities.
The first 20 minutes of the audio footage revealed that the co-pilot had a "normal and courteous" conversation with the flight commander, but when the latter started to prepare the briefing for the landing in Dusseldorf, the response of the co-pilot seemed "laconic."
At that time, the commander asks the co-pilot to take control, presumably to use the restroom, or to "satisfy natural needs," after which the sound of a seat being pushed back is heard, and the sound of a door closing.
Once left alone, the co-pilot manipulated the flight monitoring system to enact the plane's descent, and remained silent until the plane collided into the ground.
Meanwhile, the other pilot was trying to return to the cockpit, and so was knocking on the door to be let back in, although there was no response and sounds of violent blows can be heard, believed to be of the pilot who was trying to force the door open.
On the other hand, air traffic controllers in the control tower of the Marseille Airport tried to contact the aircraft several times to no avail, and launched a distress message; however, Lubitz remained silent, and his breathing was audible until the moment of impact, according to the French Prosecutor.
"We do not know the reason, but it can be seen as a willingness to destroy the aircraft," Robin said.
The passengers did not realize what was going to happen until the last moment. Based on the recording, passengers could be heard screaming just moments before the crash, explained Robin in a press conference, as he ruled out that the co-pilot might have suffered a blackout.
Robin added that "there is nothing to suggest this was a terrorist act," as he explained that he has asked the German authorities for all the information they can provide regarding the co-pilot.
Lubitz began working in the German company Lufthansa, which owns the low-cost airliner Germanwings, since 2013 and has logged 630 hours of flight experience in that time.
According to the General Prosecutor, investigations are now focused on the acquaintances of the co-pilot, whose family visited the crash site, although they did not interact with the relations of victims.
Lubitz was born in Montabaur, located in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Robin met with around 200 relatives of the victims at Marseille Airport to pass on all the information at his disposal, which was published by The New York Times U.S. newspaper on Wednesday.
Operations recovering the bodies of the victims began late on Wednesday, in addition to the DNA tests conducted to identify the victims.