German prosecutors close Germanwings crash investigation

AP News
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Posted: Jan 09, 2017 10:09 AM
German prosecutors close Germanwings crash investigation

BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors said Monday they had closed their investigation into the crash of a Germanwings plane in the French Alps almost two years ago, concluding there were no indications that anybody other than co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been involved in the intentional crash.

"We have closed the case, there will be no further investigations," Duesseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa told The Associated Press on Monday.

On March 24, 2015, Lubitz locked Germanwings Flight 9525's captain out of the cockpit and deliberately set the plane on a collision course with a mountainside. All 150 people aboard, including Lubitz, were killed.

The plane had been on its way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. Among the passengers was a group of 15 students and two teachers from a high school in the western German town of Haltern who were flying home from an exchange trip to Spain.

Lubitz had in the past suffered from depression, but authorities and his airline later deemed him fit to fly. In the months ahead of the crash, Lubitz suffered from sleeplessness and feared losing his vision, but he hid that from his employer.

Prosecutor Kumpa said no third party was involved or aware that Lubitz was planning to crash the plane.

Christof Wellens, a lawyer representing 35 families who lost loved ones in the crash, told the AP that some relatives were upset that the case had been closed.

"Some relatives view the closure of the case in Germany with horror because there are a lot of emotions, even two years after their family members were murdered," Wellens said. "They don't understand why only Germanwings and Lufthansa should be responsible. I think there are actual people who could be held responsible too."

Heinz Joachim Schoettes, a spokesman for the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, which has since replaced the Germanwings brand, welcomed the prosecutor's decision.

Wellens said the civil cases wouldn't be affected by the Duesseldorf decision because the claims are being directed at Germanwings and its parent company Lufthansa, not at the doctors who assessed Lubitz, and that the case is being pursued on the basis of contractual obligations between the airline and its passengers.

Several victims' families last year also filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against an Arizona-based flight school where Lubitz was trained, alleging the school failed to properly screen his medical background. Schoettes said the U.S. case was without merit.

In France, where the plane crashed, authorities have been conducting their own separate investigation of the crash. It also seeks to determine eventual criminal responsibility for the crash.

Many airlines and regulators have made changes since the crash and now require at least two people to be in the cockpit at any given time to prevent similar crashes.

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Frank Jordans in Berlin and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed reporting.