FRANCE — Some 150 German investigators — some specialized in homicide cases and others in identifying remains — are in the French Alps at the site of the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash, Dusseldorf police said Monday. Meanwhile, police continue to examine evidence collected from the apartment of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz and from his parents’ home, police said.
German prosecutors say the co-pilot of the Germanwings passenger plane that crashed in the French Alps had received treatment for suicidal tendencies. Andreas Lubitz received psychotherapy “with a note about suicidal tendencies” for several years before becoming a pilot, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors’ spokesman Ralf Herrenbrueck also said Monday that investigators have found no indication of a motive so far as to why Lubitz crashed the plane, nor any sign of a physical illness.
Meanwhile, the sounds recorded on one of the “black boxes” recovered from downed Germanwings Flight 9525 firms up a theory by investigators that the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and then crashed the plane.
“For God’s sake, open the door!” Capt. Patrick Sondenheimer screamed as he banged on the cockpit door, pleading with the co-pilot.
Thirteen minutes later, the plane slammed into the French Alps.
The audio from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder has not been released, but the German newspaper Bild published Sunday what it claims is a summary of the transcript from the recording.
CNN translated Bild’s report — which the newspaper says is based on the 1.5 hours of audio that was on the cockpit voice recorder — but cannot independently verify the information.
France’s accident investigation agency, BEA, told CNN that the agency is “dismayed” by the voice recording leak to Bild.
Martine Del Bono, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the leak could not have come from a BEA agent. She said the agency considers the report mere “voyeurism.”
According to Bild’s report, Sondenheimer told co-pilot Andreas Lubitz that he didn’t manage to go to the bathroom before takeoff. Lubitz told him he could go anytime.
Lubitz is believed to have locked the pilot of Flight 9525 out of the cockpit before putting the plane on a rapid descent into the mountains, French authorities have said.
After reaching cruising altitude, Sondenheimer asked Lubitz to prepare the landing.
Once that’s finished, Lubitz again told the captain he “can go anytime.”
There is the sound of a seat being pushed backward after which the captain says, “You can take over.”
At 10:29 a.m., air traffic radar detects that the plane is starting to descend.
Three minutes later, air traffic controllers try to contact the plane and receive no answer — shortly after which an alarm goes off in the cockpit, warning of the “sink rate,” Bild reported.
Next comes the banging.
Sondenheimer begs Lubitz to let him in. Passengers then begin to scream, according to the transcript obtained by Bild.
Another three minutes pass. A loud metallic bang is heard at 7,000 meters (almost 23,000 feet).
A minute and half later and 2,000 meters (about 6,500 feet) lower to the ground, an alarm says “Terrain — pull up!”
“Open the damn door!” the pilot says.
It’s 10:38 a.m., and the plane is at 4,000 meters (about 13,000 feet). Lubitz’s breathing can still be heard on the voice recorder, according to Bild’s report.
Two minutes later, investigators think they hear the plane’s right wing scrape a mountaintop.
Screams can be heard one final time.
Cockpit recordings are some of the most sensitive and closely held parts of aviation crash investigations. They’re never officially released, according to CNN aviation reporter Richard Quest.
Quest called it “unbelievable” that the black box audio would be leaked in this manner.
Communications between air traffic control and a plane’s cockpit can be downloaded privately, but that’s less common in Europe than it is in the United States.
An edited and redacted version of the transcript is usually published in part of a final report on an incident.
Although search teams have recovered the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder remains missing. That device could reveal crucial details about what happened during the final moments of the flight.
Investigators, families gather at crash site
Family members of those aboard Flight 9525, meanwhile, are making the grim pilgrimage to the crash site in the French Alps.
A total of 325 people have so far traveled to the site, Germanwings Chief Operating Officer Oliver Wagner said Monday at a news conference. He detailed what the airline is doing to support relatives of the victims.
“More of them will come in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “Many of them asked to go there many times.”
Those who have visited the site so far are from countries including Germany, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Argentina and Venezuela, according to Wagner.
Wagner said the airline has also set up care centers for families in France, Spain and Germany.
He said he wouldn’t make any comments on the crash itself while the investigation is ongoing.
What authorities know
Jean Pierre Michel, lead investigator for the French inquiry, said on Saturday that investigators are not ruling out any scenario with respect to the crash at this point.
But French authorities have said that Lubitz appeared to have crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 deliberately into the Alps on Tuesday as it flew from Barcelona, Spain, toward Dusseldorf, Germany, with 150 people on board.
Much attention has focused on Lubitz’s state of mind since then, with suggestions that he may have had mental health issues.
Lubitz, 27, passed his annual pilot recertification medical examination in summer 2014, a German aviation source told CNN.
An official with Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said that the exam only tests physical health, not psychological health.
The official also said that the company was never given any indication Lubitz was depressed, and that if he went to a doctor on his own, he would have been required to self-report if deemed unfit to fly.
A Dusseldorf clinic said he’d gone there twice, most recently on March 10, “concerning a diagnosis.” But the University Clinic said it had not treated Lubitz for depression.
The speculation about Lubitz’ mental state is based on a letter found in a waste bin in his Dusseldorf apartment.
The note, which was “slashed,” said Lubitz was not able to do his job, city prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said Friday.
The fact that investigators found “ripped, recent medical leave notes, including for the day of the offense, leads to the preliminary conclusion that the deceased kept his illness secret from his employer and his professional environment,” prosecutors said.
Germanwings corroborated that assertion, saying it had never received a sick note from Lubitz.
A handful of publications, citing unnamed sources, have reported that Lubitz suffered from various psychological maladies.
CNN has not been able to confirm these reports.