The Germanwings Flight 9525 plane crash that killed all 150 people on board, including 16 high school students and two babies, was "deliberately carried out," with co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locking himself in the cockpit with the intention to "destroy the plane," French officials revealed on Thursday.
"The most plausible interpretation is that the co-pilot, through a voluntary act, had refused to open the cabin door to let the captain in. He pushed the button to trigger the aircraft to lose altitude. He operated this button for a reason we don't know yet, but it appears that the reason was to destroy this plane," Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said, according to CNN.
He added that the Captain attempted to re-enter the cockpit while Lubitz was driving the plane down, but the pilot prevented him from doing so, according to information extracted from the black box voice recorder, which was found at the crash site in the French Alps.
"We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing," Robin said.
"At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane," he explained. "This action on the altitude controls can only be deliberate."
According to NPR, Lubitz was a 28-year-old German citizen with no known ties to terrorism or extremism.
"He was completely normal. He was very happy to have his job," a resident of Montabaur who knew Lubitz told the news source. "He was satisfied and happy. He had attained his dream of having become a professional pilot after being an amateur. He had no problems. I did not think he could do such a thing."
During a press conference on Thursday morning, Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Germanwing's parent company, Lufthansa, revealed that the captain punched in the emergency number into the cockpit door to gain entry, but the co-pilot deployed the five-minute override.
"We are in complete shock..it is beyond our worst nightmare", he told reporters in Cologne. "It leaves us absolutely speechless...I wouldn't not have been able to imagine that the situation would have got even worse."
When asked by the New York Times if the Captain violated Lufthansa's policies by leaving the cockpit, Spohr explained that he had not, as European regulations do not provide for two people to be in the cockpit at all times.
"What has happened here is a tragic individual event," he said. "We are trying to deal with an enigma...No systems could prevent such an event."
Meanwhile, rescue workers have been battling harsh condition on the remote French Alps and are trying to collect the bodies of the victims, which are said to have been "strewn for hundreds of meters."
Thus far, casualties from 16 separate countries have been confirmed by Germanwings - the largest number being from Germany and Spain.