Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Hid Depression From Airline – Wall Street Journal
BERLIN—Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed an airliner into a French mountainside, was being treated for depression, a fact he apparently successfully concealed from his employer, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his treating psychiatrist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but decided to ignore the advice and reported to work.
His motive remained unclear, but another person familiar with the investigation said he didn’t have a terminal illness.
While Mr. Lubitz had sought to conceal his depression from Germanwings, there was no direct evidence that the fear of losing his flying classification as being fit to fly—due for renewal in July—triggered his actions, though “this would be a plausible explanation,” the first person said.
The person said there was no evidence that Mr. Lubitz was under mind-altering medication that could have clouded 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 said, alluding to Mr. Lubitz’ lack of reaction when urged by the pilot to open the locked cockpit door.
Earlier Friday, a German prosecutor said Mr. Lubitz was being treated for a medical condition that he had apparently concealed from the airline, but didn’t provide any details on what it was.
The lead French prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday that he suspected Mr. Lubitz locked the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 out of the cockpit, programmed the A320’s descent and slammed it into an alpine ridge at 400 miles an hour on Tuesday, killing all 150 people onboard. He said Mr. Lubitz showed a “willingness to destroy this aircraft.”
A spokesman for Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, said on Friday that Mr. Lubitz was “without a doubt a credible person with a clean background.” He said Lufthansa will now consider whether it needs to change its screening procedures.
German prosecutors said that a search of Mr. Lubitz’ Düsseldorf apartment on Thursday uncovered several doctor’s notes, included one excusing him from work for a period covering the day of the crash.
“The fact that [documents] were found, including sickness notes that were torn up, still valid, and that covered the day of the act, supports…the assumption that the deceased had concealed his condition from his employer and colleagues,” the prosecutor said.
Separately, the University Hospital in Düsseldorf said Mr. Lubitz had visited the hospital in February and was last there on March 10 for diagnostic checks. It said it had handed his medical records to the prosecutor.
The hospital said Mr. Lubitz had not sought treatment there for depression.
The person familiar with the case said Mr. Lubitz was undergoing treatment for depression elsewhere in the Rhineland area of western Germany.
Under German law, a doctor isn’t required to inform the patient’s employer about any illness, nor should the note excusing him or her from work include any information about the patient’s condition.
Hans-Peter Hartung, the head of University Hospital’s department of neurology, said that while doctors in Germany weren’t required by law to inform the police or a patient’s employer if the condition seemed like it could pose risks for others, they had discretion to do so.
“We are entitled under the balance of risks, and if there are looming problems, to breach medical confidentiality” by contacting the police or a patient’s employer, Mr. Hartung said.
Jochen Lamp, spokesman for the German association of psychiatrists, said only very unusual circumstances would prompt a psychiatrist to breach medical confidentiality as legal consequences of such a move can be severe.
Mr. Lubitz, a keen runner who competed in several half-marathons, had a more ancient medical history too.
Germany’s Federal Aviation Office said Friday Mr. Lubitz’s medical certificate showed he had an unspecified medical condition requiring regular checks. It wasn’t clear whether this condition related to Mr. Lubitz’ recent complaints.
A spokesman for the agency said whether the record’s “specific regular medical examination,” also known as the SIC, related to mental or physical health was confidential information.
Mr. Lubitz’s medical certificate was last renewed in July 2014. The certificate, which is required for a pilot license, is updated annually.
Friday’s revelations about Mr. Lubitz’ depression could cast new light on an unexplained break in his pilot training a year after it began in 2008. This gap lasted for “a number of months,” Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said this week.
A Lufthansa spokesman said the airline had “no indication of burnout” or any other mental problem concerning Mr. Lubitz. The spokesman said that due to medical confidentiality rules, the airline only sees whether a person passed physical and mental fitness tests.
“We don’t have the physical and mental health files of our people. Those are with doctors,” the spokesman said. “We have only the formal view that somebody fulfilled the needed requirements.”
People who knew Mr. Lubitz described him as quiet, pleasant and responsible, and Lufthansa said it had no indication why he would have deliberately crashed the aircraft. People who saw him recently said he didn’t appear burdened.
The police on Thursday searched Mr. Lubitz’s apartment in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood about 20 minutes from the center of Düsseldorf. The search lasted 3½ hours and ended around 8:30 p.m. local time, a spokesman for the police said. Police took out two cardboard boxes and one large plastic bag with material.
The person familiar with the case said Mr. Lubitz shared the Düsseldorf apartment with his girlfriend, whose last name—Goldbach—appears on the mailbox alongside Mr. Lubitz’ name.
Ms. Goldbach, whose first name the person wouldn’t reveal, is on the list of witnesses the German prosecutor’s office is planning to interview but isn’t a suspect. There are no other suspects in the case beyond Mr. Lubitz, the person said.
Neighbors said they sometimes saw Mr. Lubitz on the street wearing his pilot’s uniform. One neighbor who asked not be identified said he knew Mr. Lubitz in passing, sometimes accompanied by a woman, and characterized him as very shy.
Mr. Lubitz was officially registered as residing with his parents in Montabaur, western Germany, the local council said in a statement Friday.
The mayor of the association of communities at Montabaur, Edmund Schaaf, declined to divulge personal information about Mr. Lubitz.
“We ask the media to treat his family with respect and for balanced reporting because we still don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding the event,” Mr. Schaaf said in a statement.
— Monica Houston-Waesch,Ellen Emmerentze Jervell and Daniel Michaels contributed to this article.
Corrections & Amplifications:
A photo of a mountain setting featuring a man originally described by photo agency Zuma as Andreas Lubitz has been removed from a video and slideshow that appeared with this article because the agency cannot confirm the identity of the person (March 27, 2015)