Germanwings Crash Update

[Content Note: Description of airline crash; death.]

On Tuesday, I mentioned that a Lufthansa Germanwings airbus had crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. The cockpit voice recorder has revealed that the crash appears to have been intentional:
The chief Marseille prosecutor handling the investigation into the crash of a Germanwings jetliner said on Thursday that evidence from the cockpit voice recorder indicated that the co-pilot had deliberately locked the captain out of the cockpit and steered the plane into its fatal descent.

"At this moment, in light of investigation, the interpretation we can give at this time is that the co-pilot through voluntary abstention refused to open the door of the cockpit to the commander, and activated the button that commands the loss of altitude," the prosecutor, Brice Robin, said.

He said it appeared that the intention of the co-pilot, identified as Andreas Lubitz, had been "to destroy the aircraft." He said that the voice recorder showed that the co-pilot had been breathing until before the moment of impact, suggesting that he was conscious and deliberate in killing 144 passengers and five other crew members in the French Alps on Tuesday.

The inquiry had shown that the crash was intentional, Mr. Robin said, and he was considering changing his investigation from involuntary manslaughter to voluntary manslaughter.

...The prosecutor said that the authorities had a full transcript of the final 30 minutes of the voice recorder.

"During the first 20 minutes, the pilots talk normally," he said, saying they spoke in a "cheerful" and "courteous" way. "There is nothing abnormal happening," he said.

The prosecutor said the transcript showed that the captain was preparing a briefing for landing in Düsseldorf. The co-pilot's answer, the prosecutor said, was "laconic."

The commanding pilot then asked the co-pilot to take over, and the noise of a seat backing up and a door closing could be heard.

"At this stage, the co-pilot is in control, alone," the prosecutor said. "It is when he is alone that the co-pilot manipulates the flight monitoring system to activate the descent of the plane." The prosecutor said that this action could only have been "voluntary."

The captain is heard begging to get back in to the cockpit, but the co-pilot, heard breathing normally until the plane crashed, did not react, Mr. Robin said.
In fact, other reports describe the captain "banging on the door" and "trying to smash the door down." It sounds like it was a very desperate, chaotic, terrifying scene, and passengers can be heard screaming on the recording, just before the impact.

At this point, there is no indication that Lubitz was carrying out a terrorist act; he has not been red-flagged by law enforcement officials, nor were any of the passengers on board. Still, an investigation into Lubitz is now underway, to try to find any explanation for his apparent decision to kill himself and everyone else on the airbus he was piloting.

I feel so profoundly sad for the people who lost family members, friends, and/or colleagues on the flight. It would be devastating to lose someone in a crash that was caused by some mechanical failure or weather event, but to lose someone in an inexplicable, deliberate crash committed by one of the pilots is unimaginable.

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