Germanwings Flight 9525: Inside the horror of the ‘darkest day’

A French court has dropped proceedings for involuntary manslaughter in the horrifying case of a Germanwings A320 plane, which in 2015 was crashed in the French Alps by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, killing 150 people including two Australians.

According to local reports, the judges from Marseilles had been probing whether there was any culpability for negligent homicide against the airline or doctors for not foreseeing the danger Lubitz posed to passenger safety.

In a 45-page document, three judges concluded nobody could have predicted Lubitz would have acted the way he did, despite his known mental illness, French newspaper Le Parisien reported.

They found that the co-pilot’s “suicidal” act was “not foreseeable” and “not known to anyone”.

“No one could have acted beforehand to avoid the incident of March 24, 2015,” the Marseilles prosecutor’s office told reporters.

“No serious fault, nor any deliberate violation of a duty of care or safety imposed by law or regulation could be blamed on Germanwings, Lufthansa (its parent company) or its managers or employees.”

‘Terrain, terrain, pull up, pull up’

So what happened on that fateful day, seven years ago?

On the morning of March 24, Germanwings Flight 9525 took off from Spain’s Barcelona Airport, bound for Dusseldorf, Germany.

At first, all seemed normal as the plane climbed to 38,000 feet over half an hour. Then, the pilots made the final contact with air traffic control in what was a routine message about gaining permission to continue on their route.

It was moments later that the captain left the cockpit, placing the co-pilot in control of radio communications. The sound of the cockpit door opening and closing is audible on the black box flight recording.

Lubitz then locked himself in the cockpit and set the autopilot. Over the space of 10 minutes, the plane would take a route directly into the French Alps.

The crew pounded on the cockpit door and then tried to smash their way in but were unable to.

Around a minute before impact, “low amplitude inputs” were recorded on the co-pilot’s flight controls. Soon after, the “terrain, terrain, pull up, pull up” alert sounded.

Lubitz didn’t say a word this whole time, but could be heard breathing.

Passenger screams can be heard just before the end of the recording, as the plane hit the mountain at 700km/h.

“Death was instant,” French prosecutor Brice Robin said in an investigation into the incident.

Two Australians among those killed

Among those killed were a 7-month-old baby, 16 children and two teachers from the Joseph Konig Gymnasium in Haltern am See, Germany. The town’s mayor would describe the event as “the darkest day in the history of our city”.

The two Australians who perished in the crash were Carol Friday and her son Greig Friday, from Melbourne.

Investigations later revealed Lubitz had suffered a psychotic episode in the days leading up to the flight, fearing his failing eyesight would cost him his job.

Despite physicians advising him to seek urgent treatment, they were not allowed to alert authorities because of Germany’s strict privacy laws.

He had reportedly consulted with 41 doctors within the previous five years, including several psychiatrists.

A source said of Lubitz: “During his training at Lufthansa flight school, Andreas was listed as unsuitable for flight duties, because he spent one and a half years in psychological treatment, and so he had to repeat courses.”

Meanwhile, Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr said: “Six years ago there was a lengthy interruption in his training. After he was cleared again he resumed training. He passed all the subsequent tests and checks with flying colours.

“He took a several months break for reasons I do not know. Then he had to do the tests again.”

It was in 2013 that he moved from Lufthansa, where he worked as a flight attendant, to Germanwings to be a pilot.

The lawsuits that followed the tragic crash were difficult.

“How do you put a monetary value on eight minutes of terror?” lawyer Brian Alexander from Kreindler told GQ.

The tragedy also prompted new mental health laws in Europe.

It came after Harvard University’s school of public health launched a study into airline pilot mental health, finding 14 per cent of those surveyed were depressed.

Where to get help:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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