Germanwings crash: Co-pilot researched suicide methods, cockpit doors

Updated 1:11 AM EDT, Sat April 25, 2015
Caption:FRANKFURT, GERMANY - MARCH 14:(EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE)(EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo is available exclusively through Getty Images except in Germany) In this photo released today, co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525 Andreas Lubitz participates in the Frankfurt City Half-Marathon on March 14, 2010 in Frankfurt, Germany. Lubitz is suspected of having deliberately piloted Germanwings flight 4U 9525 into a mountain in southern France on March 24, 2015 and killing all 150 people on board, including himself, in the worst air disaster in Europe in recent history. (Photo by Getty Images)
Getty Images
Caption:FRANKFURT, GERMANY - MARCH 14:(EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE)(EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo is available exclusively through Getty Images except in Germany) In this photo released today, co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525 Andreas Lubitz participates in the Frankfurt City Half-Marathon on March 14, 2010 in Frankfurt, Germany. Lubitz is suspected of having deliberately piloted Germanwings flight 4U 9525 into a mountain in southern France on March 24, 2015 and killing all 150 people on board, including himself, in the worst air disaster in Europe in recent history. (Photo by Getty Images)
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A stele and flowers laid in memory of the victims are placed in the area where the Germanwings jetliner crashed in the French Alps, in  Le Vernet, France, Friday, March 27, 2015. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain, which killed all 150 people aboard, has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. Authorities believe the 27-year-old German deliberately sought to destroy the Airbus A320 as it flew Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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Story highlights

NEW: Prosecutor: Authorities find 470 personal items, including 40 damaged cell phones

NEW: Second "black box" was found buried 8 inches under the surface, he says

German prosecutor: Analysis of Lubitz's tablet reveals he researched suicide methods

(CNN) —  

Analysis of a tablet device belonging to Germanwings Flight 9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz shows he researched suicide methods on the Internet in the days leading up to the crash, a German prosecutor said Thursday.

Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said that on one day Lubitz also “searched for several minutes with search terms relating to cockpit doors and their security measures.”

Police analysis of the correspondence and search history on the device, retrieved from Lubitz’s Dusseldorf apartment, demonstrated that the co-pilot used it from March 16 to March 23, Kumpa said.

The search history was not deleted and also revealed searches concerning medical treatment, the prosecutor said.

Lubitz is suspected of deliberately bringing down Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 on board. Investigators have since focused on his health as they try to establish his motivation.

Noting he’s made a criminal request to German authorities but is for now conducting his own investigation, the prosecutor in Marseille, France, said he is tasked with an involuntary homicide investigation. But prosecutor Brice Robin noted that Lubitz made voluntary actions – such as guiding the plane toward the mountain and reducing its speed to prevent alarms from going off – and was “alive and conscious” to the very end.

A European official government official with detailed knowledge of the investigation said that Lubitz’s actions amount to”premeditated murder.”

While cautioning that there are still many holes in understanding Lubitz’s motivation, the disclosures about his Internet searches show that he planned to do what he was going to do, according to this official.

Second ‘black box’ found

As authorities try to figure out what was on Lubitz’s electronic devices, they got another big break about what was happening inside Airbus 320 that went down – its flight data recorder.

The jetliner’s cockpit voice recorder was located shortly after the plane crashed. Now, investigators have both “black boxes,” as the devices are called, and the details that they might provide.

A female police officer digging by hand for clothes in a ravine that been searched previously found the flight data recorder on Thursday afternoon about 8 inches (20 centimeters) below the surface, Robin told reporters.

Normally white with florescent orange, this discovered recorder lived up to its name as a black box because fire had darkened it with ashes. Even with this damage, the Marseille prosecutor said that investigators should be able to get useful information out of it.

“We will be able to identify the speed, the altitude and the way the pilot acted … which will be critical,” said Robin.

Prosecutor: 150 sets of DNA recovered

The voice data recorder is one of many items uncovered at the crash site in the southern French Alps.

Authorities have found 470 personnel effects there, according to Robin. That number includes 40 cell phones, though all those were badly damaged. Robin cast doubt that any useful information could be retrieved from those phones, given their condition.

This is consistent with French officials’ claims Wednesday insisting that two publications, German daily Bild and French Paris Match, were wrong to report that cell phone video showed the harrowing final seconds from on board the flight.

More importantly, investigators have isolated 150 different sets of DNA – a number that corresponds with the number of people on Flight 9525. Still, the Marseille prosecutor cautioned, “It doesn’t mean we have identified 150 victims. We need to compare (the recovered DNA to) DNA from the families and the deceased.”

Robin estimated “it will take between three to five weeks, if all goes well” for the passengers’ loved ones to get the remains.

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But the mourning is already underway.

A memorial stone set up in the village of Le Vernet, the nearest accessible point to the crash site, has become a place of pilgrimage for those with relatives and friends on board the plane.

People in the German town of Haltern recently came together for a memorial service to remember 16 students and two teachers lost in the crash.

Push to take steps to prevent a repeat

Providing some closures to the families of those passengers and crew members is a top priority for authorities.

So, too, is doing what they can to figure out why this happened and prevent similar tragedies.

There are new calls from aviation experts to develop and deploy enhanced crash avoidance software that could take control of an aircraft away from a pilot and steer it to a safe altitude.

The technology would work in a similar fashion to crash avoidance technology already used in automobiles if a pilot is incapacitated or ignores audible warnings.

The idea is not new. In fact more than 10 years ago following 9/11, Airbus, the manufacturer of the doomed aircraft, was working to d‎evelop aircraft crash avoidance software with tech giant Honeywell – in part to prevent