The tragic story of the Germanwings airliner that went down in a desolate area in the French Alps on Tuesday has gone through a number of variations, starting with the presumption the crash was not an act of terrorism. Early this morning the story took a new twist with the revelation that the pilot was locked out of cockpit as the plane made its strangely sharp descent, dropping 3,000 feet per minute over a 10-minute span, until it vanished from radar at around 6,000 feet.
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, citing information from the “black box” voice recorder, said the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit.
He intentionally started a descent while the pilot was locked out.
Mr Robin said there was “absolute silence in the cockpit” as the pilot fought to re-enter it.
However, passengers could be heard screaming just before the crash, he added.
The co-pilot, now named as Andreas Lubitz, 28, was alive until the final impact, the prosecutor said.
The Airbus 320 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf hit a mountain, killing all 144 passengers and six crew, after a rapid eight-minute descent.
“We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing,” Mr Robin told reporters.
This latest interpretation would explain why there was no distress call as the plane headed sharply downward. Robin went on to add that the actions taken by Lubitz with respect to altitude controls had to be deliberate and that the co-pilot was “not known by us” to have any links to extremism or terrorism.
That leaves open the possibility that the crash was an act of suicide, though it is unclear why the co-pilot chose to take the lives of 150 innocent people along with his own.