French officials deny Germanwings crash video exists; ‘no bodies found intact’ at crash site

Investigators complete retrieval of bodies but say mobile phones retrieved from site have not been sent for analysis

 French emergency rescue services work among debris of the Germanwings passenger jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France. Police denied that a cellphone video showing the last terrifying moments in the cabin was retrieved at the crash site. Photo: AP

A video purportedly showing the final seconds inside the cabin of the ill-fated Germanwings airliner minutes before it crashed has emerged, two European media outlets said yesterday, although French police denied the claims.

One sequence reportedly shows a chaotic scene with passengers screaming “My God”.

French magazine Paris Match and German daily Bild said the authenticity of the video filmed on a mobile phone is “unquestionable” and that it had been retrieved from the wreckage of last week’s crash in the French Alps.

However, French police Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marc Menichini denied that investigators had found mobile phone footage at the crash site, saying the reports were “completely wrong” and “unwarranted”.

The recording lasting just a few seconds showed that passengers knew what was happening to them before the plane slammed into a mountain, instantly killing all 150 people on board, according to the reports.

“The scene was so chaotic that it was hard to identify people, but the sounds of the screaming passengers made it perfectly clear that they were aware of what was about to happen to them,” said Paris Match.

People were heard crying “My God” in several languages, it said.

It added that “metallic banging” could be heard more than three times – possibly the attempts of the pilot to open the cockpit door with a heavy object.

A forensic expert of the French gendarmerie disaster victim identification unit working in a mobile laboratory near the site of the March 24 crash of a Germanwings Airbus A320. Photo: Reuters

Investigators evaluating voice recorder data say co-pilot Andreas Lubitz allegedly locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, who is handling the case in France, said none of the mobile telephones collected at the crash site had been sent for analysis, but said anyone with footage “must hand it over immediately to investigators”.

Lufthansa said on Tuesday that Lubitz had told officials at the airline’s training school in 2009 that he had gone through a period of severe depression, raising questions about screening process for pilots. Prosecutors have said he suffered from “suicidal tendencies” before obtaining his pilot’s licence.

Based on black box cockpit recordings recovered the day of the crash, investigators believe the Germanwings co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately slammed the plane into the mountain, killing everyone on board.

Meanwhile, investigators have finished retrieving human remains from the crash site on the French Alps and are now trying to match them with DNA profiles from the 150 people killed – an arduous task that could leave families waiting for months.

The extraordinary recovery process mobilized hundreds of people and cut a stony road into a forested Alpine mountainside to help the team bring back anything they found, from a body part to a tiny shred of skin. Not a single intact body was found.

Flags representing different nations affected by the tragedy are deployed during an homage ceremony for the victims of the Germwanwings crash. Photo: AP

The impact of the March 24 crash shattered the plane and all those inside, ripped a black box from its orange protective casing, and left shreds of metal and cloth scattered across hundreds of metres.

The crime lab handling the samples has only received complete DNA profiles for about 60 victims from their relatives because it takes time to gather samples from families still reeling from their loss.

Dental and surgical records, tattoos, DNA from hair, or toothbrushes will all serve to identify and ultimately return the remains to families.

Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Marc Menichini, who has been involved in the operation focusing on recovering victims’ remains, said Wednesday “there are no longer any visible remains” at the crash site.

A special unit of mountain troops, with help from German investigators, is now clearing the crash site of everything else that is there, including debris and personal effects.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr (right) and Germanwings managing director Thomas Winkelmann speak at a memorial for the victims. Photo: Reuters

On Wednesday, the chief executive of Germanwings’ parent company Lufthansa said it will take “a long, long time” to understand what led to the crash – but refused to say what else the airline knew about the mental health of the co-pilot and why they haven’t released more information about it.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and the head of its low-cost airline Germanwings, Thomas Winkelmann, visited the crash area yesterday.

German prosecutors say Lubitz’s medical records from before he received his pilot’s licence referred to “suicidal tendencies,” but visits to doctors since then showed no record of any suicidal tendencies or aggression against others.

The revelations intensify questions about how much Lufthansa and its insurers will pay in damages for the passengers who died – and about how thoroughly the aviation industry and government regulators screen pilots for psychological problems.

Additional reporting by Reuters