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Germanwings Captain Patrick Sonderheimer Fought to Open Locked Cockpit

"For God's sake, open the door," the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525, Patrick Sonderheimer, can be heard demanding in cockpit voice recordings.
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/ Source: NBC News

The pilot of the doomed Germanwings plane desperately struggled to get into the cockpit that the co-pilot had locked him out of before the plane crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

"For God's sake, open the door," the captain, Patrick Sonderheimer, can be heard demanding in cockpit voice recordings salvaged by investigators probing Tuesday's crash, according to the German publication Bild am Sonntag.

The 27-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, doesn't reply, even as the pilot's pleas are accompanied by screams of terrified passengers, Bild am Sonntag reported. Lubitz also ignored bangs on the door, as Sonderheimer apparently fights to break down the locked cockpit door.

It is unclear what tool the captain turned to in his attempt to break the cockpit door open and save the plane, his crew and his passengers.

Boris Ogursky, a spokesman for Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said all the company's planes have an axe, but it would have been locked in the cockpit with the co-pilot. Two aviation sources told NBC News that many commercial aircrafts have a hidden crowbar in case the crew needs to break into a bathroom for any reason.

The pilot's efforts are now being hailed as heroic. Comments on a Facebook post on a page apparently belonging to one of Sonderheimer's loved ones commend him for his bravery, Vocativ reported. “You can be very proud of your son,” reads one of the comments.

Many are still questioning what prompted Lubitz, who has been described by more than one acquaintance as "quiet," to end his life along with the lives of 149 others.

German prosecutors said they found torn-up doctor's notes excusing him from work on the day of the crash while searching his home. Investigators have not said whether the nature of the medical memo was mental or physical. The co-pilot may have also been suffering from a "psychosomatic" illness and vision problems, according to various reports, unconfirmed by NBC News.

A spokesman for Luthansa told NBC News that the airline "had no knowledge" during any point of Lubitz's career that he had any medical problems.


— Elisha Fieldstadt and Nancy Ing, with Reuters