April 1, 2015 / 7:44 AM / 3 years ago

Report of plane passenger video overshadows exec visit to crash site

BERLIN/LE VERNET, France (Reuters) - A video of the final seconds aboard the Germanwings plane that crashed in France last week has been discovered, reports said on Wednesday, just hours before executives visiting the crash site dodged questions about the mental health of the pilot.

French gendarmes, seen in this picture made available to the press by the French Interior Ministry April 1, 2015, work near debris from wreckage showing a German flag at the crash site of an Airbus A320, near Seyne-les-Alpes. REUTERS/French Interior Ministry/DICOM/Y. Malenfer

The video was found on a mobile phone belonging to one of the passengers killed on the plane which investigators say German pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew into a mountain in the French Alps, Bild newspaper reported.

The scenes seen on the video were chaotic and very wobbly, said Bild, adding screams and shouts of “My God” could be heard, indicating the passengers knew what was happening.

Prosecutor Brice Robin, who is handling the case in France, said the phones collected from the crash had yet to be analyzed and were being kept on site. France’s BEA investigation authority could not immediately be reached for comment.

On the video, which Bild described as being “indisputably authentic”, a banging of metal could be heard at least three times, possibly the sound of the pilot who had been locked out of the cockpit by Lubitz trying to break through the door.

Near the end there was a heavy shake and the cabin tilted sharply to one side. After further screams the video ended, said the paper.

The footage appeared to have been taken from near the back of the plane but no individuals could be identified, said Bild.

French magazine Paris Match also ran a story on the video and printed an account of a conversation between the two pilots, according to a “special investigator”.

When the captain left the cockpit to go to the toilet, he told Lubitz that he was in control. “I hope so”, Lubitz replied, according to the magazine.

Later the captain implored Lubitz to let him in.

Lufthansa said on Tuesday that Lubitz had told officials at the airline’s training school in 2009 that he had gone through a period of severe depression, raising questions about the screening process for pilots.

Prosecutors have said he suffered from “suicidal tendencies” before obtaining his pilot’s license.

CEO QUESTIONED

Lufthansa is facing legal action from relatives of the victims.

Chief Executive Carsten Spohr, visiting the crash site on Wednesday, declined to answer a barrage of questions about what the airline knew of Lubitz’ mental health.

Lubitz, who was allowed to restart training after passing all the medical and suitability checks again, had a note on his flight license indicating some sort of illness, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

But under German doctor-patient confidentiality laws, Lufthansa as an employer may not seek information about employees’ medical conditions.

Spohr said in a prepared statement that it was still not clear what drove Lubitz’ actions.

The head of the French police forensic team said earlier this week it would take two to four months to identify the victims, and that there was no certainty all of them would be identified because of the high speed at which the plane crashed.

A first step could be just days away though, said Brice Robin, the Marseille prosecutor in charge of the case.

“We haven’t yet isolated all 150 DNA sets but we hope to by the end of the week,” he told Reuters.

“Then they need to be compared with those of members of the families of the victims, which will take a certain time.”

Reporting by Andrew Callus in Paris and Victoria Bryan and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Toby Chopra

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