*UPDATE* 3/27 12:30PM EST
Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz ripped up a doctor’s note excusing him from work on the day he crashed a crowded passenger plane into a mountain, prosecutors said Friday, while the German newspaper Bild said the man may have just gone through a breakup with his girlfriend. The paper also claimed that details of Lubitz’s medical records show that he had been designated as “not suitable for flying” by his instructors at Lufthansa’s training school in Arizona around the time he took a break from attaining his pilot’s license in 2009.
Prosecutors in Germany reported that Lubitz was being treated for a medical illness that he hid from his employer. Bild reported that Lubitz spent 18 months receiving psychiatric treatment, was diagnosed with a “severe depressive episode,” and received what it called a “special regular medical examination.” The report added that investigators were examining whether Lubitz was suffering from a “personal life crisis,” including the possibility that there were problems in his relationship with his girlfriend, according to Fox News.
Late Thursday, the Daily Mail quoted a Dusseldorf police spokesman as saying investigators had found an item that “may be a very significant clue” in Lubitz’s apartment. The spokesman did not elaborate on what the item was, but said it had been taken away for testing and was not a suicide note. He added, “we hope it may give some explanations.”
While listening to the mangled “black box” voice recorder found amid the wreckage, new discoveries were made regarding what caused the tragic crash that killed 150 people.
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin explained that through listening to the black box recording, French investigators have discovered that the co-pilot, 28-year-old German national Andreas Lubitz, locked the pilot, Patrick Sonderheimer, out of the cockpit when the plane hit cruising altitude and the pilot left the cockpit, presumably to use the restroom.
Once the pilot left the cockpit, Lubitz activated the decent, which can only be done deliberately, all while ignoring the captain’s frantic pounding on the cockpit door and the screams of terror from the passengers that began at the very end as they realized what was happening. He said the German co-pilot’s responses, initially courteous in the first part of the trip, became “curt” when the captain began the mid-flight briefing on the planned landing.
Audio recordings showed that Lubitz did not speak a word after the pilot left but also had steady breathing, which gives no sign that he had a heart attack or any other medical issue. French investigators have come to the conclusion that Lubitz had the full intention to destroy the aircraft, but they still are unsure why and are not calling it suicide or terrorism.
Co-workers who knew Lubitz said that there were no signs of depression or suicidal thought from him and he seemed to be happy with his job that he was very well-qualified to do. However, Lubitz’s former classmates told reporters in Germany that the 28-year-old took a 6 month leave from pilot training in 2009 because he felt “burnt out” and “depressed.” The chief executive of Lufthansa added that when Lubitz came back, he was deemed fit to return to training and that he passed all subsequent physical and psychological tests with flying colors. Details on his religious and ethnic background has not yet been released.