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Plane Probe Focuses On Health Of Co-Pilot

  • RFE/RL

An undated file picture of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz

An undated file picture of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz

French and German officials are continuing to investigate the possible causes of a tragic jetliner crash on March 24 in France that killed 150 people, with the focus being the physical and mental health of the co-pilot.

Investigators say they think the Germanwings co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, intentionally slammed the plane into the side of a mountain during a flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

French prosecutors say data from the cockpit recorder suggest the 27-year-old Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately set it on course to crash. The Airbus jet began to descend shortly after reaching cruising altitude.

Recordings indicate there was silence as the captain struggled to get back in and passengers began screaming.

With attention focused on the co-pilot's mental health, a hospital in Duesseldorf, where Lubitz lived, said he had been a patient there over the past two months. The hospital said in a statement March 27 that Lubitz last came to the hospital for "diagnostic evaluation" on March 10.

The hospital declined to provide details about his condition but denied German media reports it had treated the co-pilot for depression.

German prosecutor Christoph Kumpa told journalists that documents found at Lubitz's home point toward an existing illness and treatment by doctors. Kumpa said torn up sick notes from doctors were found that support a preliminary assumption that Lubitz hid his illness from his employer.

Meantime, French police working to recover remains from the crash site say so far they have recovered between 400 and 600 pieces of human tissue.

Speaking from the French Alps town of Seyne-les-Alpes, Colonel Patrick Touron of the gendarme service said that rescuers had not found "a single body" intact.

He said DNA samples have been taken from objects provided by the victims' families -- such as toothbrushes -- that could help identify the victims.

Following the crash, Lufthansa says it's appointing an official to take care of "examining and further refining all flight safety-relevant procedures" at the company.

Lufthansa says its affiliated airlines, including Germanwings, will introduce a rule requiring a minumum of two persons in the cockpit at all times as soon as possible in consultation with their regulators.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP