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 For Better or for Worse, January 15, 2004

Germanwings co-pilot examined for vision problems before fatal flight, reports say

New reports Saturday say Andreas Lubitz — the co-pilot who crashed a jet into a French mountainside early Tuesday — had been dumped by his girlfriend a day before the crash, was being treated for depression and was possibly facing the loss of his job over eye problems.

The new revelations emerged four days after the tragedy and painted a picture of a troubled man whose world, carefully hidden from his employer, friends and colleagues, was coming apart over a broken romance, mental illness and vision issues before the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 that killed 150 people.ADVERTISEMENTADVERTISEMENT

It was unclear if Lubitz’s eye difficulties were serious enough to ground him, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source who said investigators only know that Lubitz had been examined by an eye specialist and that the appointments appeared to have taken place at University Hospital Dusseldorf.

The paper said evidence uncovered during searches of Lubitz’s apartment in Dusseldorf and his parents’ home in Montabaur indicated he had had his eyes examined and was being treated for depression.

University Hospital Dusseldorf on Friday said Lubitz had been seen at a clinic in February and most recently on March 10, but not for depression. The hospital would not say what Lubitz was treated for, citing patient confidentiality.

The Journal said the 27-year-old Lubitz was being seen by a neuropsychologist for depression. The doctor gave Lubitz a note excusing him from the work the day of the crash but he ignored the advice and reported to work, the paper said, citing its source, a person familiar with the investigation.

French TV channel iTELE reported Lubitz and his girlfriend of seven years shared an apartment in Dusseldorf and planned to get

married in 2016. The New York Post said the channel reported that the day before the crash, the fiancée ended the relationship.

Authorities said the cockpit voice recorder showed Lubitz caused the crash. They said the German refused to let the jet’s captain reenter the captain and then rigged the auto-pilot to descend to its lowest setting, 100 feet. All on board were killed when the plane crashed into the Alps north of Nice at 6,000 feet. Captain Patrick Sonderheimber reportedly took an axe to the cabin door trying to get back into the cockpit as the plane plunged from the sky.

The Post also reported that the German newspaper Bild quoted another Lubitz ex-girlfriend as recalling that within the past year, Lubitz had promised her that one day he’d “make everyone remember him.”

Bild identified the former lover as “Maria, 26,” who also said Lubitz would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, “We’re crashing!”

“When I heard about the crash, one thing that he said kept going through my head: ‘One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember it.’ ” the woman told the paper, according to the Post.

“I didn’t know what he meant, but now it makes sense,” the woman added.

German prosecutors reported Friday that Lubitz shredded the doctor’s notes for the day of the crash and other days, supporting their assessment that Lubitz hid his “medical illness” from his employer and colleagues. They refused to say if the hidden illness was depression.

The Journal said that while Lubitz had sought to conceal his mental illness, there was no evidence that the fear of losing his medical classification as being fit to fly triggered his actions, though “this would be a plausible explanation,” the person said.

His pilot’s license is up for renewal in July and would be in jeopardy if he was diagnosed as mentally ill.

The person told the Journal there was no evidence Lubitz was taking “mind-altering” medication that could have affected his judgment in the cockpit.

“When someone makes the same decision five or six times all leading toward one specific end you have to assume they are acting intentionally,” the person told the paper, alluding to Mr. Lubitz’s lack of reaction when urged by the pilot to open the locked cockpit door. Prosecutors said the cockpit voice recorder showed Lubitz breathing normally in the last moments of the flight, even as the pilot tried to get back into the cockpit and passengers screamed for their lives.

The Journal quoted a Lufthansa spokesman as saying: “All we know was that he had a clean background.”

Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said Friday the doctor’s note for the day of the crash indicated Lubitz “was declared by a medical doctor unfit to work.”

Bild on Friday said Lubitz had been designated as “not suitable for flying” by his instructors at Lufthansa’s training school in Arizona around the time that he halted his pursuit of a pilot’s license in 2009.

The tabloid said Lubitz spent 18 months receiving psychiatric treatment, was diagnosed with a “severe depressive episode,” and received what it called a “special regular medical examination.”

Neighbors described a man whose physical health was superb and road race records show Lubitz took part in several long-distance runs.

Prosecutors said there was no indication of any political or religious motivation for Lubitz’s actions on the Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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