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Saturday 19 August 2017

Cockpit killer may have had a detached retina

French rescue workers inspect the remains of the Germanwings Airbus A320 at the site of the crash, near Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps March 29, 2015
French rescue workers inspect the remains of the Germanwings Airbus A320 at the site of the crash, near Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps March 29, 2015

The co-pilot who crashed a passenger jet in the French Alps may have been suffering from a detached retina, but investigators are unsure whether his vision problems had physical or psychological causes.

It is also believed that the captain of the Germanwings Airbus had screamed "Open the damn door!" as he tried to get back into the locked cockpit before the jet crashed last Tuesday, killing all 150 on board.

Police also discovered personal notes that showed 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz suffered from "severe subjective overstress symptoms".

Lufthansa, the parent company of the budget airline, said the carrier was unaware of a psychosomatic or any other illness affecting Lubitz.

"We have no information of our own on that," a Lufthansa spokesman said.

A spokesman for state prosecutors in Dusseldorf declined to comment yesterday, adding that there would be no official statement before today.

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said investigators had found evidence that Lubitz feared losing his eyesight, apparently because of a detached retina.

However, it was unclear whether this was due to an organic failure or psychosomatic illness, when physical problems are thought to be caused or aggravated by psychological factors such as stress.

Investigators have retrieved cockpit voice recordings from one of the A320 jet's "black boxes", which they say show Lubitz locked himself alone in the cockpit before causing the jet to crash in southern France as it headed to Dusseldorf from Barcelona.

Bild am Sonntag reported that the voice recorder data showed that the locked-out captain said to his colleague inside the cockpit: "For God's sake, open the door."

The pilot can then be heard trying to smash the door down. Even when he yells "Open the damn door!" Lubitz does not give an answer as passengers' screams can be heard in the background just seconds before the fatal crash, the paper said.

pregnant

The newspaper also reported that Lubitz's girlfriend, a teacher at a secondary school in a small town near Dusseldorf, had recently told students she was pregnant.

On Saturday, Bild published an interview with a woman who said she had a relationship with Lubitz last year and that he told her about planning a spectacular gesture so "everyone will know my name and remember it".

The chief executive of Airbus, which made the aircraft that Lubitz crashed, criticised uninformed experts sounding off about the disaster on television talk shows and called for better oversight of the media.

"Some experts speculated without any facts, fantasised and lied. That makes a mockery of the victims," Tom Enders was quoted as saying by Bild am Sonntag.

Airbus has not been in the crosshairs of investigators following the crash as evidence early on pointed to a deliberate act by Lubitz, but French investigators warned on Saturday that it was too early to rule out other explanations for the crash.

Berlin aims to review safety rules for airlines in cooperation with the industry.

"There are high safety standards in the aviation sector, but they still need regular updating," Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told Bild am Sonntag.

Several airlines, including Lufthansa, have changed their rules since last week's crash and now require two crew members in the cockpit at all times, a measure already mandatory in the United States but not in Europe.

hnews@herald.ie

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