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Germanwings Crash Pilot Lubitz Researched Suicide Online: Prosecutors

Germanwings crash co-pilot Andreas Lubitz researched suicide methods on his tablet computer, prosecutors said Thursday.
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/ Source: NBC News

Germanwings crash co-pilot Andreas Lubitz researched suicide methods on his tablet computer just days before his passenger jet struck the French Alps, prosecutors revealed Thursday, as investigators said they had retrieved the second black box that could yield more clues into the fatal flight.

Analysis of search terms from the browser history on a device seized during a raid on his home suggested the co-pilot of doomed Flight 4U9525 sought information about medical treatments as well as "types and implementation methods of a suicide," Attorney-General Ralf Herrenbrück, of the Dusseldorf prosecutor's office, said in a statement.

"On at least one day, the concerned person spent several minutes with search words about cockpit doors and their security measures," he added.

Prosecutors believe Lubitz locked his captain out of the Airbus A320's cockpit and intentionally crashed the plane — en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany — into a mountainside on March 24. All 150 people aboard were killed.

Analysis of the evidence found at Lubitz’s house is preliminary and was expected to take many more days to verify, Herrenbrück stressed. The browser history covered the period from March 16 to 23.

The crash has thrown a spotlight on the opaque world of mental health screening for pilots, who face regular physical testing but are often expected to self-declare illnesses such as addiction or depression.

Earlier Thursday, German ministers announced a review of airline safety procedures, including cockpit door mechanisms and medical testing for pilots.

Meanwhile, officials in France said Thursday that the second black box data recorder had been found at the crash site. The Flight Data Recorder was sent to Paris for analysis, Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin said. It should reveal the flight's speed, altitude, pilot commands and motor functions, he said.

Some 2,854 "fragments" — from body parts to personal belongings, including 40 cell phones — were also recovered at the scene that could assist in DNA identification of the victims, Robin added. The majority of the evidence yielded DNA samples, and the prosecutor said it could take three to five weeks to complete identification of the body parts.

With each positive ID, the family of the victim will be notified immediately, officials added.