Lufthansa CEO tours crash area after disclosure of pilot’s depression

April 1, 2015

FRANKFURT, Germany — Deutsche Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr returned to the scene of the carrier’s worst-ever crash, a day after disclosing that the pilot blamed for the deaths revealed in 2009 that he was fighting depression.

Spohr and Thomas Winkelmann, CEO of the Germanwings discount arm that operated the flight on which 150 people died, traveled to Seyne-les-Alpes, the French town nearest the crash site, before continuing to the village of Le Vernet to meet with rescue workers, volunteers and local politicians.

“We are learning more every day about the cause of the accident, but it will take a long, long time for every one of us to understand how this could happen,” Spohr said at Le Vernet, where a memorial to the dead has been erected. “It was very important for all of us to come here today and mourn.”

The two executives will later travel to Marseille, where Lufthansa has established a bereavement assistance center, to meet with relatives and friends of the victims, before flying to the German town of Haltern am See, near Dortmund, to attend a memorial service for high-school students among those killed.

“We don’t only help this week; we want to help as long as help is needed. That’s my promise,” Spohr said in a brief address in Le Vernet before he and Winkelmann walked off without answering questions from the media. The two men were visited the area for the second time since the crash.

Lufthansa revealed Tuesday that first officer Andreas Lubitz — who investigators say deliberately guided the Germanwings Airbus A320 into a mountain — informed the company’s flight training school as long ago as 2009 that he had suffered a bout of “severe depression.” Prosecutors said Monday he’d also been treated for “suicidal tendencies.”

Still, Lufthansa said that the pilot twice passed medical examinations, required to attend the flight school, performed by licensed aeromedical examiners at its main base in Frankfurt.

Allianz SE, the carrier’s lead insurer, said Wednesday that companies providing cover to Lufthansa have set aside $300 million to fund claims from victims’ families, costs for the lost jet and expenses for supporting the investigation.

Lufthansa on Tuesday canceled planned celebrations of its 60th anniversary in the wake of last week’s tragedy, and will instead broadcast a memorial service to be held at Cologne Cathedral on April 17.

© 2015, Bloomberg News

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