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GERMANWINGS CRASH

Prosecutors rule suicidal pilot solely responsible for Germanwings crash

Decision could affect complaint filed against Lufthansa by families of 50 Spaniards killed in tragedy

German state prosecutors have ruled that responsibility for the Germanwings air disaster in March 2015 in which all 150 people aboard an Airbus A320 that crashed into a mountainside in the French Alps died, among them 50 Spaniards, lies solely with the flight's co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz.

German pilot Andreas Lubitz in an image from 2009.
German pilot Andreas Lubitz in an image from 2009.REUTERS

“The investigations have not provided sufficient or tangible indicators as to external responsibilities of anybody still alive, either among the family or the doctors who treated the pilot, or within the company [Germanwings],” said Christoph Kumpa, the spokesman for the Düsseldorf Prosecutor’s office, at the end of its investigation.

The co-pilot had suicidal thoughts... Lufthansa is co-responsible for the tragedy Christof Wellens, lawyer for families of victims

“In accordance with the evidence, there is no reason to open an investigation against any living person,” he said.

The prosecutor’s office concludes that Lubitz decided alone to commit suicide by flying the plane into a mountainside and did so by taking advantage of the absence of the pilot from the cockpit, who had gone to the bathroom.

Prosecutors attempted throughout their investigation to find out if the doctors who were treating Lubitz for depression had been negligent or had hidden his symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

Kumpa said that prosecutors had established that Lubitz’s doctors knew he was suffering from psychological problems but that they never produced a diagnosis that he was “clinically depressed.” They say that Lubitz, who had flown with Lufthansa and its low-cost carrier Germanwings for a decade, with more than 6,000 hours of flight time under his belt, at no time talked to his doctors about his suicidal tendencies, a fact which prevented those doctors from altering the company.

Prosecutors tried to find out if the doctors treating Lubitz were negligent

Prosecutors reached the conclusion that Lubitz suffered a supposed “psychotic depressive episode” that began in December 2014 and which he hid from his doctors and Germanwings, but said there was no evidence to consider either the doctors treating him or Lufthansa, or German aviation authorities, to be to blame.

The German prosecutors’ conclusions could have direct consequences for a group of the families of victims aboard the flight – which was traveling from Barcelona to Düsseldorf on March 24, 2015 – who have filed a complaint at a US court against ATCA, the flying school run by Lufthansa in Phoenix, where Lubitz completed his training.

Lawyers representing the families of victims, many of them Spaniards, have accused Lufthansa of negligence for not having taken measures to prevent Lubitz from finishing his training after he interrupted his studies at Phoenix due to psychological problems. “They should never have re-admitted him. The co-pilot was seriously ill and had suicidal thoughts, which means Lufthansa is jointly responsible for the tragedy, given that it was negligent in his training and in its duty of care,” Christof Wellens, one of the lawyers representing the families, told EL PAÍS in March 2016. The lawyers also blame Lubitz’s doctors for not informing Lufthansa of his illness.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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