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Police search home of co-pilot who's believed to have crashed plane

French authorities believe 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz deliberately brought down the plane, killing all 150 people on board.

Updated 10.25pm

France Plane Crash Source: AP/Press Association Images

WHAT WE KNOW NOW

  • The co-pilot, named as 28-year-old German Andreas Lubitz, forced the plane into deliberate descent. 
  • The pilot was locked out of the cockpit and was heard desperately pounding on the door, trying to get in during the last moments of the flight. He was refused entry by Lubitz who remained silent.
  • Prosecutors believe the co-pilot appeared to want to destroy the plane.
  • Passengers were aware of what was happening in the last moments of the flight and the black box recorded their screams.

Germany France Plane Crash Investigators carry boxes from the apartment of Germanwings airliner jet co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. Source: AP/Press Association Images

INVESTIGATORS HAVE CARRIED out searches at two homes of the German co-pilot who officials say appears to have deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, a German prosecutor said tonight.

“Both the home of the co-pilot in Duesseldorf and the home in Montabaur have been searched,” Ralf Herrenbrueck of Dusseldorf said.

Andreas Lubitz, the 28-year-old co-pilot who French authorities believe deliberately brought down a Germanwings jet, lived with his parents in the western town of Montabaur, while also keeping a flat in Dusseldorf.

Duesseldorf prosecutors have opened a parallel inquiry to the main investigation under way in France, as many among the 150 crash victims were from the German region.

The city’s public prosecutor said in a written statement that searches in Duesseldorf and other places were aimed at “in particular, the discovery and securing of personal documents” to help clarify the situation.

In Montabaur, a town of around 12,500 inhabitants, a police cordon has been set up around the Lubitz family home and men wearing gloves came out carrying briefcases, bags and boxes.

Germany France Plane Crash A police officer stands in front of a house where the co-pilot lived. Source: Martin Meissner/AP

Deliberate

Earlier, a French prosecutor said that there were strong signs Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately.

Speaking at a conference this morning, prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot purposefully initiated the descent and was alive at the point of the crash.

He also told reporters that he appeared to want to “destroy the plane” by using the descent button which would have required conscious, voluntary movements.

Although Robin said that nothing yet indicated a terrorist attack, he also said he would not call it a suicide as there were 150 people with him at the time.

From initial investigations of the recovered cockpit voice recorder, it appears the pilot left the cockpit and was unable to return as the door had been locked.

Lubitz took sole control of the plane and intentionally started the descent. He appears to have ignored desperate and loud pleas from the pilot to allow him to re-enter the cockpit.

Robin said that pounding could be heard on the door during the final minutes as alarms sounded.

He said the co-pilot “voluntarily” refused to open the door, and his breathing was normal throughout the final minutes of the flight.

Germany France Plane Crash Police hold media away from the house where co=pilot Andreas Lubitz lived. Source: Michael Probst

Lubitz, who was 28 years old with 600 hours of flying experience, was completely silent in the cockpit once the pilot left.

Officials were questioned about his religion this morning but Robin said, “I don’t think it’s necessarily what we should be looking for.”

Robin told reporters today that he had briefed all the victims’ families before speaking with the media.

He also said the investigation will continue as he wants to find out “what really happens”.

“In truth, what has come out has led us a bit closer to the real picture of what actually happened,” he added.

Asked about when the passengers were aware of the problem, Robin noted that the Airbus 320 is rather a big plane.

“We just hear screams at the very end,” he said.

It’s in the last moments of the flight and death was instant. It hit the mountain at 700km per hour.

The recovery of bodies is to continue in the French Alps and is expected to last until next week.

Speaking this afternoon, Germany’s Transport Minister said today’s revelations were shocking.

Lufthansa response

In a press conference today, a spokesperson from Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said that a pilot or co-pilot can leave the cockpit temporarily without being replaced.

They noted that in the US, some airlines require another crew member to replace the pilot during the time they have left the cockpit.

For “biological reasons you can leave the cockpit for a short time and the pilot did it exactly like this as he learned during the training… it was exemplary”, said the spokesperson.

He added that the co-pilot had all necessary licences as a first officer to actually fly the Airbus 320.

The press conference heard that Lufthansa have “full trust in the screening and selection procedure” for their pilots.

Pilots from Germanwings and Lufthansa get the same training.

With reporting from Daragh Brophy & wires (AP, AFP)

Earlier: One pilot ‘locked out’ of cockpit before crash

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