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Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz 'hid illness' from his employers

AFP | A photo of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz on his Facebook page, which was later taken down.
4 min

The co-pilot blamed for deliberately crashing into the French Alps and killing all 150 people on board was hiding an illness from his employers, German prosecutors said Friday, following a search of Andreas Lubitz's home.

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Prosecutors in the western city of Duesseldorf said they seized medical documents from the home of 27-year-old Lubitz that indicate “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment”.

Prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrueck said in a statement Friday that torn-up sick notes for the day of the crash “support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues”.

Germanwings confirmed in a statement that it had not received a sick note for the day of the tragedy.

Herrenbrueck said the search of Lubitz's home revealed no suicide note nor evidence of any political or religious motivation for his actions. He did not say what illness the co-pilot had been treated for.

German media had earlier reported that Lubitz stopped training for six months because of "burnout syndrome" or "depression" in 2009. Matthias Gebauer, Der Spiegel’s chief correspondent, tweeted: "Schoolmates of co-pilot who crashed tell German reporters he took six-month break from flight training in 2009 due to burnout syndrome”.

According to German daily Bild, Lubitz had been the recipient of a “specific and regular medical treatment” ever since a bout of depression in 2009.

The front page of German daily Bild on Friday
The front page of German daily Bild on Friday

Bild said psychologists were due to examine his medical record and documents provided by the airline on Friday.

Carsten Spohr, CEO of Germanwings’ parent company Lufthansa, had earlier told reporters that Lubitz took a "several-month gap" six years ago.

However, he said: "I am not able to state the reasons why he took the break."

Lubitz later resumed training and passed all his tests, including psychological and medical exams, Spohr said, adding that the co-pilot was deemed “100 percent fit to fly without any restrictions”.

“We can only speculate what might have been the motivation of the co-pilot," Spohr added. "In our worst nightmares we could not have imagined that this kind of tragedy could happen to us".

‘Happy’ with Germanwings job

Authorities are still at a loss to explain why Lubitz appeared to have taken sole control of the plane after locking the pilot out of the cockpit then deliberately forcing the aircraft into a fatal descent.

Lubitz, who lived with his parents in the small western German town of Montabour, qualified as a pilot at the Lufthansa training centre in Bremen, and began flying for the airline’s low-cost subsidiary, Germanwings, shortly after completing the course in 2013.

At the time of the accident, Lubitz had accumulated 630 hours of flight experience, according to a Lufthansa spokeswoman.

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An avid runner who often took part in local races, Lubitz was also registered as a member of a private flight club, LSC Westerwald, in Montabour.

Peter Ruecker, a fellow club member, described Lubitz as upbeat.

"He was happy he had the job with Germanwings and he was doing well,'' Ruecker told the Associated Press. “He was very happy. He gave off a good feeling.”

A photo on Lubitz’s Facebook page, which was later taken down, shows a smiling young man posing in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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