As the story develops, it gets more and more grim. On Wednesday night, the French prosecutor investigating the crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 announced that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the Airbus 320 into the Alps. The pilot had been locked out of the cockpit and co-pilot Lubitz steered the plane into the mountains on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board. The gruesome news is terrifying, and it's tormenting to wonder if the Germanwings passengers suffered at all during the final minutes of the flight. Did they know what was about to happen?
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said in a press conference that audio from the flight reveals passengers were screaming as the pilot, locked out, was banging on the cockpit door, likely frantic to get back in. Robin reported that Lubitz intentionally put the plane into a dive, and de-activated the function that keeps a plane at a certain altitude. The prosecutor went on to say that "cries" could be heard right before impact, but that the passengers' “death would have been sudden, immediate.”
The co-pilot could be heard breathing right up until the crash, an obvious indictation that he was alive and conscious. Aviation consultant Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told CBS News that due to the commotion around the cockpit, the passengers — 72 Germans, 51 Spaniards, and citizens of the UK, Australia, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Denmark, the Netherlands, the USA, and Belgium — "would have known what was going on."
Sully concluded: "It would have been a terrifying number of minutes."
On the other hand, Robin said, “I think the victims realized only at the final moment, because on the audio recording that we listen to, the screams occur only in the final moments, just before the impact ... On the recording you literally hear the screams only on the last moments and nothing else."
There were also alarms. Robin stated: "There are alarm systems which indicate to all those on board the proximity of the ground and then we hear noises of the door trying to be broken into." Presumably, the passengers, hearing the alarms and witnessing the pilot banging on the cockpit door, did know what was happening. For just how long they knew remains to be seen.
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