A story in circulation about the Germanwings Air Crash in the French Alps mountainside suggests that the co-pilot of the Flight 9525, Andreas Lubitz was treated for depression and the catastrophe might possibly be drug-induced.
The Air Crash Incident
On 24 March 2015, Germanwings Jetliner Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps mountainside near Le Vernet at a speed of 435 miles per hour, killing all the 150 people aboard. Officials reported the aircraft was literally smashed to bits, and not a single body was found intact. Andreas Lubitz, the 27 years old co-pilot was thought to be the one who deliberately headed the flight into crash.
After initial investigations and studying the black-box recording of the Germanwings Flight 9525, lead prosecutor Brice Robin and German officials said there was no evidence that the air crash was a part of any terrorism plot. Brice Robin said that the Germanwings co-pilot Mr. Andreas Lubitz locked the Captain Patrick Sonderheimer out of the cockpit, programmed the flight’s descent and slammed it into an alpine ridge – with a willingness to destroy the aircraft.
According to Brice Robin who studied the black-box recording of the crashed flight, when the captain discussed with Mr. Lubitz the plan to land in Düsseldorf, the younger pilot did not show interest in the crucial procedure, responding to his captain tersely (brief and direct in a way that may seem rude or unfriendly). Once the plane levelled off, the Captain asked his co-pilot to take over the controls and left the cockpit to use the lavatory, which is when Mr. Lubitz changed the altitude setting of the flight — from 38,000 feet to 100 feet, the minimal setting in the plane’s flight system. Data from the second black box recorder discovered later suggested that Lubitz even sped up the plane’s descent as it hurtled towards the earth.
Once the plane started descending, the captain kept knocking on the cockpit door and even got an axe (part of the equipment on board) to break it, but Mr. Lubitz, who exchanged pleasantries at the start of the flight, remained silent during the descent and did not even respond to assistance from Air-traffic control. Amid the cacophony of the 150 people on board, the A320 entered its final stages of collision course. Mr. Robin said that during the descent, Lubitz did not say a single word; the only sound from him was his breathing. The prosecutor was amazed at how it didn’t waver as the flight crashed, killing everyone aboard.
Copilot Used Antidepressants?
The friends of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz told that he is a very nice, funny and polite young man, but he has a medical history of depression that not many knew. Lufthansa CEO, Mr. Carsten Spohr said that Lubitz joined Germanwings in 2013 and his pilot training was temporarily interrupted for several months, and he started working only five years later.
German news site Bild.de reported that Andreas Lubitz was diagnosed with a serious depressive episode and went on to receive psychological treatment for a year and a half. German media also reported that investigators have found antidepressants and evidence of mental health problems at Mr. Lubitz’s Duesseldorf flat. In fact, they even found torn-up sick notes for the day of the crash in his home. Authorities also found torn-up medical documents from his doctor declaring him unfit to work. Later, German media Der Spiegel reported that Lubitz was consulting at least five doctors, who included psychiatrists and a neurologist. It was revealed that the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was treated for “suicidal tendencies” before he was even qualified. German prosecutors even said that Andreas Lubitz conducted internet research on “cockpit doors” and “suicide” days before crashing the Germanwings plane. Importantly, internal documents reveal a note on Mr. Lubitz’s aviation authority file that recommended regular psychological assessment. Lufthansa CEO said that all their pilots go through annual medical checks, but not special psych assessments beyond training.
Incidents in the past have shown that people under heavy influence of antidepressant drugs have committed variety of crimes like shooting, mass murder and even suicide. Some other flight crash incidents where pilot suicide is thought to be the likely cause include 2013 Mozambique Airlines crash in Namibia, the EgyptAir Flight 990 crash off the coast of Nantucket in 1999, and the 1997 SilkAir Flight 185 crash in Palembang of Indonesia.
Possible Side Effects of Antidepressants
There are various types of antidepressant drugs in usage, the common ones being SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors), TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Antidepressants can have dangerous side effects like psychosis (being unable to tell the difference between reality and imagination) and suicidal thoughts, among many others as listed and discussed in Mayo Clinic website mayoclinic.org. This is more likely to happen in children and young adults, reason why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes it necessary that all depression medications should include a warning label about this increased risk of suicide in children and young adults. These unwanted side effects may appear during initial treatment and gradually go away with proper, continued treatment with antidepressants. So it is important that patients suffering from depression check with a well-known doctor/psychiatrist to assess the need of drugs, and also monitor for necessary changes in medication thereafter.
After the unprecedented, tragic air crash that took away all the lives of 150 people on board, several airlines have now pledged to change their rules to ensure that at least two crew members shall be present in the cockpit at all times.