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Probe Continues of Germanwings Co-pilot's Health


French rescue workers inspect the remains of the Airbus A320 at the site of the crash near Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps, March 29, 2015.
French rescue workers inspect the remains of the Airbus A320 at the site of the crash near Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps, March 29, 2015.

The Germanwings co-pilot, accused of intentionally crashing his plane into the Alps, may have had vision problems in addition to being treated by psychologists, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

Bild am Sonntag reports investigators found evidence 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz feared losing his eyesight due to a detached retina.

Prosecutors said Friday searches of Lubitz's home uncovered documents that suggested "an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment." Police also found evidence that he was treated for a psychological illness.

The newspaper also reported that Lubitz's girlfriend, whom he lived with, was pregnant.

French officials said the plane's flight recorders indicate that Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit before the jet crashed on Tuesday, killing all 150 people onboard.

Bild said the captain, who likely had left the controls to use the restroom, screamed "For God's sake, open the door," while pounding on the cockpit door in an attempt to gain reentry.

Prosecutors said the voice recorder indicates Lubitz, alone with the controls, manually sent the Airbus A-320 jetliner into a final descent at 700 kilometers an hour.

Flight 9525 was bound from Barcelona, Spain, to the German city of Dusseldorf, with 144 passengers and six crew when it crashed about 100 kilometers north of the French Riviera city of Nice. People from at least 18 countries were aboard the flight, with 72 Germans and at least 35 Spaniards among the casualties.

Forensic teams say they have so far isolated 78 DNA strands from remains found at the mountain crash site.

Co-pilot's family

Also Sunday, the pastor of the Lutheran church in Lubitz's hometown of Montabaur, said Sunday that the community stands by him and his family, despite the fact that prosecutors blame the co-pilot for causing the plane crash that killed 150 people in southern France.

The town of Montabaur has been rattled by the revelation that Lubitz, who first learned to fly at a nearby glider club, may have intentionally caused Tuesday's crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.

"For us, it makes it particularly difficult that the only victim from Montabaur is suspected to have caused this tragedy, this crash - although this has not been finally confirmed, but a lot is indicating that - and we have to face this," pastor Michael Dietrich said.

He spoke to The Associated Press after holding a church service Sunday to commemorate the crash victims and support their families.

"The co-pilot, the family belong to our community, and we stand by this, and we embrace them and will not hide this, and want to support the family in particular," Dietrich told the AP. He added that there is no direct contact with the family at the moment, but that he believes they are receiving good assistance.

French prosecutors haven't questioned the family yet "out of decency and respect for their pain," Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.

Elsewhere Sunday, the family of Jun Ichi Sato, a Japanese man who died in the crash, visited a memorial site in the French Alps.

The father, stepfather and wife of Japanese national Sato spent about an hour at the site, where they laid flowers and burned incense.

In Rome, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the plane crash, citing in particular the 16 German students returning from an exchange trip to Spain. He offered the prayer after Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the start of Holy Week.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.