Germanwings co-pilot was on sick leave, hospital confirms visits

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Berlin, March 28: Prosecutors in Germany's Dusseldorf city announced on Friday that the co-pilot, who allegedly crashed the Germanwings plane in French Alps deliberately, killing all 150 on board, had a medical leave note for the day of the flight, which he hid from the company while a city hospital said he had been a patient there in the last two months.

The sick leave note was found during a search of the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz's home, torn to bits among other documents, implicating mental illness and proving that he had been receiving medical treatment, Efe news agency reported.

Lufthansa plane crash

Prosecution sources denied that a suicide note was found in the search, or that any information was found indicating his "political or religious backgrounds".

In a statement, the Dusseldorf prosecution said the notes were considered proof that he hid his illness from his company and his employers.

Reports said it was known that co-pilot had prematurely dropped out of his training for a few months in 2009, triggering speculations that he may have been suffering from depression at that time.

Lubitz, who allegedly crashed the Germanwings Airbus A320 plane en route from Barcelona in Spain to Dusseldorf in Germany began his flying apprenticeship at age 14 at a local aviation institution, and joined the Lufthansa Flight Training school in Bremen in 2007.

In 2009, he interrupted his training for a few months, which he later resumed and completed before joining the low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, Germanwings, in 2013.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said on Thursday that upon resumption of his training, Lubitz passed the most rigorous tests, both physical and mental.

Lubitz's home in Dusseldorf was searched on Thursday, as well as his family's home in the German state of Rhineland Palatinate, where many items were seized, including a computer and other personal items.

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman of Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, told Xinhua news agency the co-pilot had passed all Lufthansa tests but declined to comment on his mental condition.

As the company was unable to access the co-pilot's clinical data that has been reported by the media, Lufthansa spokesman said the airline had no comment to offer on those media reports.

Lufthansa, however, announced it will implement a regulation to ensure that at least two crew members remain in the cockpit at all times, given that co-pilot Lubitz had apparently initiated the plane's descent after locking the captain, who had left to use the restroom, out of the cockpit.

Meanwhile, the University Hospital of Duesseldorf said in a statement that Lubitz visited the hospital as a patient in February 2015 and his last visit was on March 10, 2015.

The hospital said Lubitz was receiving a diagnosis evaluation, but refused to disclose more details.

It also denied previous media reports that the co-pilot was suffering from depression.

It added all the the medical records related to Lubitz were handed over to the the prosecution of Germany's Dusseldorf city.

Meanwhile, French authorities continued the recovery operation for the fourth day on Friday, using helicopters from the base of Seyne-les-Alpes to reach the crash site on the steep mountain slope, Efe reported.

The current priority of the investigators is to find the second black box in the hope that it will further clarify the sequence of events in the cockpit. The first box, found within a few hours of the disaster, revealed that the co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane, keeping the captain locked out of the cockpit.

Forensic experts will also continue searching the mountains for the mortal remains of the victims, which are then transferred to a centre in Seyne-les-Alpes for identification, using DNA samples of the victims' families who arrived at the crash site on Thursday.

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