A noticeably shaken Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr (above right), described his devastation at learning the latest developments. Earlier on Thursday, a public prosecutor in France said the co-pilot of Tuesday's crashed Germanwings flight deliberately initiated the plane's descent. He was alone in the cockpit and ignored the pilot trying to get back in.
Spohr said he was "speechless that this aircraft has been deliberately crashed," describing it as the most terrible event in the company's history. All 150 passengers aboard the plane, which was traveling from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, were killed when the plane crashed in the French Alps.
Using audio taken from the plane's cockpit flight recorder, investigators have concluded that the co-pilot deliberately brought the plane down after the pilot had left the cabin, most likely to use the restroom.
A more detailed account of the information taken from the audio can be found here.
The 28-year-old co-pilot of flight 4U 9525 has been identified as Andreas Lubitz, a German national from Montabaur, Germany. He began flying with Germanwings in September 2013 and had logged 630 hours as a co-pilot.
Lufthansa CEO Spohr refrained from describing Lubitz's actions as suicide.
Spohr expressed confidence in Lufthansa's pilots and highlighted the airline's "world-beating safety record."
"This is a tragic one-off event. We are proud of the quality of our pilots," Spohr said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday the news "was purely beyond the power of imagination."
"It shocks me very deeply," she told reporters. "We don't know all of the reasons," she said, adding it was important that the investigation continued and looked into every aspect thoroughly.
Merkel said the information on the co-pilot was an "additional strain" to the immense pain already being felt by the families of the victims.
"I would like to repeat my promise: the promise to all citizens and especially to all families, relatives and friends from all the countries that have lost their loved ones. The federal government and the German authorities will do everything they can to support the investigation," said Merkel.
"We owe it to the victims and their relatives, who are suffering so terribly now."
The Federal German Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt, earlier said news of the cause of the crash was "shocking."
jr/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)