France:German pilot ‘hid evidence of illness’ from employers

Searches at home of co-pilot blamed for Airbus disaster reveal note that would have kept him off duty on day of crash.

The German co-pilot who is said to have deliberately crashed an Airbase in the French Alps, killing himself and 149 people on board, hid evidence of an illness from his employers, searches at his home revealed.

The evidence, unearthed on Friday, included a torn-up doctor’s note that would have kept him off work the day authorities say he crashed Flight 9525.

Andreas Lubitz, 27, was co-pilot on the Airbus that was flying from Barcelona, Spain, to the German city of Dusseldorf with 144 passengers and six flight crew members on board.

The plane belonged to Germanwings, a budget airline belonging to Germany’s leading carrier Lufthansa.

French investigators, citing recordings from the cockpit voice recorder of the Airbus, said Lubitz locked the cockpit door midflight, preventing the captain from going back in, before he sent the aircraft into a catastrophic descent.

As German prosecutors sought to piece together the puzzle of why Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit and crashed the Airbus A320, police in the French Alps toiled to retrieve the shattered remains of the 150 people killed in Tuesday’s crash.

Searches conducted at Lubitz’s homes in Dusseldorf and in the town of Montabaur turned up documents pointing to “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment,” but no suicide note was found, said Ralf Herrenbrueck, a spokesman for the Dusseldorf prosecutors’ office.
Ripped-up sick notes 

They included ripped-up sick notes covering the day of the crash, which “support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues,” Herrenbrueck said in a statement.

Doctors commonly issue employees in Germany with such notes excusing them from work, even for minor illnesses, and workers hand them to their employers. Doctors are obliged to abide by medical secrecy unless their patient explicitly tells them he or she plans to commit an act of violence.

Prosecutors did not specify what illness Lubitz may have been suffering from, or say whether it was mental or physical. German media reported Friday that Lubitz, who appeared happy and healthy to acquaintances, had suffered from depression.

The Dusseldorf University Hospital said on Friday that Lubitz had been a patient there over the past two months and last went in for a “diagnostic evaluation” on March 10. It declined to provide details, citing medical confidentiality, but denied reports it had treated Lubitz for depression.

Citing German media, Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Montabaur, said Lubitz had a history of depression, and broke off his pilot training in 2009 to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa, said that though Lubitz had suspended his pilot training, which began in 2008, he later continued and was able to qualify for the Airbus A320 in 2013.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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