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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Desperate Search For Second Black Box; Prosecutors: Co-Pilot Deliberately Crashed Plane; Co-Pilots Mental Health Questioned In France Crash. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 26, 2015 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Continuing our World Lead, right now recovery crews are desperately searching for the second black box from Germanwings Flight 9525 in the hopes that the flight data recorder will fill in the gaps about the actions of the co-pilot in the plane's final moments.

Just hours ago, family members of the victims were able to get a first look at an area near that crash site in the Southern French Alps. Many are struggling to come to grips with the shocking news that officials say this crash was likely intentional.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Le Vernet, France where families gathered to grieve. Nic, were families able to get close enough to see actual debris?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They weren't. They were able to get to a field, which was the closest place the French authorities were able to get them to the crash site. It was about a couple of miles away.

We could see the helicopters flying over them and dropping just below the sort of furthest ridgeline into the steep-sided mountain valleys there, even as the families were gathered there.

We could see one helicopter lift, pulling out of the mountain range and it had something slung beneath it. But for the families, they were able to have a memorial service. There was a memorial plaque that we understand had the names of everyone aboard the aircraft marked on it.

We were able to see the families gathered in the field for a little over an hour. There were a couple of hundred of them came on several -- on seven large buses that had been laid on by the French authorities here.

They were able to go individually and as families walk up to the plaque perhaps to be able to read the names of their loved ones, but to be able to get to the site today, to see anything of the crash itself, that just wasn't possible. It is too remote at this time still -- John.

BERMAN: Nic, any news on the search for the other black box, the flight data recorder?

[16:35:07] ROBERTSON: We know that the teams are on the ground there. They are working in pairs. There are two, sort of recovery team members, together along with a mountain guide. The pictures have shown them on the ground gathering up debris from the aircraft.

They are using their hands at times to dig in the rock, but we are not aware that they have recovered that yet. Of course, that is one of the most important parts of what they are doing on the mountainside at the moment.

BERMAN: Nic Robertson, we see those pictures of them literally digging through the dirt. Nic Robertson in Le Vernet, France, thanks so much.

One part investigators still have not figured out, why the co-pilot would do what they say he did. Other crashes can give a clearer picture including several cases of pilots who have intentionally taken down planes killing everyone on board. One crash in particular is eerily similar to this one. That's next.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. More now on our breaking news, the co-pilot who French authorities say deliberately brought down Germanwings Flight 9525. If early indicators are right he's not the first person to do something like this.

It's hard to imagine, but pilots responsible for the lives of so many people have made calculated moves to crash planes. CNN's Tom Foreman shows us some similar cases.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Egypt Air 990 takes off from New York to Cairo, climbing for 20 minutes. Then the captain goes to the restroom and that's when investigators believe the co- pilot dives the plane, plunging almost 15,000 feet in a half minute.

The captain rushes back, fights to save it, but all 217 people on board die on impact. That was Halloween 1999. The similarities to the crash in the French Alps are eerie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is hard to comprehend for most people. Nobody can imagine this.

FOREMAN: Yet it happens. SilkAir Flight 195 went into a river in 1997, killing 104 people. Indonesian authorities could not determine the cause, but American investigators said the captain did it on purpose. Why does this happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really do not know very much.

FOREMAN: Clinical psychologist Daniela Schreier notes that while many suicides occur privately and quietly as people grapple with mental health issues sometimes there is an element of rage against the world, perceived insult and injustices, making suicidal pilots somewhat like school shootings.

DR. DANIELA SCHREIER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: They say this is my time and I can go out and you are actually going to talk about me. That's the mentality of you see what you did to me because I'm paying it back.

FOREMAN: And on it goes. In Morocco, 44 people died when authorities say a pilot smashed his plane into a mountain in 1994. In Namibia in 2013, authorities say a pilot locked his partner out of the cockpit and purposely crashed, killing 33.

Even in the current case of the missing Malaysian jet that disappeared last year, one persistent hypothesis, though there is no proof, is that one of the pilots took the plane to its doom.

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FOREMAN: Statistics tell us such incidents remain extremely rare, but the fact they persists proves no one has found a way to solve them and maybe part of the problem, John, is that some health officials say pilots want to protect their jobs, their reputations.

And they have enough training and high performance that they are able to hide the symptoms of mental health issues until it's really terribly too late.

BERMAN: Fascinating. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

I want to bring in Dr. Kris Mohandie, he is a forensic psychologist and doctor. If we believe what investigators are now saying, this co- pilot, he didn't just fly his plane into a mountainside killing 149 other people.

For 10 minutes, the captain was knocking at the door. This man was unresponsive but breathing, allegedly steadily the whole time. What kind of person can do that? What's the profile of a human being like that?

DR. KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: What we are talking about is somebody who has been depressed, who is suicidal, but on top of being desperate and hopeless, has decided that he wants to take other people with him to their demise.

So you are talking about a homicidal and suicidal state of mind and in this situation, it sounds like he was working himself up, maintaining his resolve and unfortunately, in addition to his own death, brought all these people to death with him. BERMAN: What does it take to get from the suicidal to the homicidal state and again, we are told the breathing was steady the whole time. Does that indicate some kind of almost diabolical reserve?

MOHANDIE: Well, what it takes to get a person from suicidal to homicidal is the idea that other people deserve to suffer and go to their deaths with you. That may be to make a point.

In other cases it reflects anger and a desire to strike out at others who should suffer along with you. The breathing represents a sort of calmness or being resolute.

The fact that the decision has already been made, he's basically in kind of a holding pattern in terms of his intentions and his motivation.

BERMAN: Interesting. There's an investigation obviously going on right now. What questions would you want to ask his friends and family?

MOHANDIE: In most of these cases, there will be what we call leakage to something like this, meaning statements the person may have been making of a suicidal nature, of a hopeless nature, things that maybe gave clues to his pending suicidal and homicidal intentions.

[16:45:06] So I would ask about any changes in behavior, things that he may have said that now seem to make sense. I would look at changes in his life that may have reflected the turning point or the triggering events for why he may have decided to do this now.

There will be clues. There will be more information. We will find that there were a series of problems, my prediction that led him to make this unfortunate and catastrophic decision that affected hundreds of lives.

BERMAN: Even with the explanation it may never actually make sense, though. Dr. Kris Mohandie, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

MOHANDIE: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: We have an exclusive interview with the CEO of Lufthansa. What he is saying about the mental health of the co-pilot. That's next.

Plus French authorities have asked the FBI for assistance. We will discuss the latest steps, new details in the investigation, ahead.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Continuing now with the breaking news, investigators say they believe Germanwings Flight 9525 was deliberately crashed by the co- pilot, Andreas Lubitz. Passengers could be heard screaming moments before impact.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Fredrick Pleitgen joins us now live from Cologne in Germany where he spoke exclusively with the head of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings. Fred, what did the CEO have to say about the pilot's background? Were there any red flags?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a question that I put to Carsten Spohr. I asked whether or not maybe in the past some colleagues or maybe some people from the cabin crew might have had any sort of indications that there might have been something wrong with him.

He said that Lufthansa does have a very intensive process especially when these people are cadets to put them through mental training, the whole process of these people getting a pilot license puts them in very difficult situations.

They have to multi-task under a lot of pressure. He says that there are evaluations that go on all the time. However, nothing was ever indicated. Let's have a look at what he said.

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CARSTEN SPOHR, LUFTHANSA CEO: The pilot has passed all his tests, all his medical exams. We have at Lufthansa a reporting system where crew can report without being punished their own problems or they can report about problems with others without any kind of punishment. That hasn't been used either in this case. So all the safety nets, all the safety nets we are so proud of here have not worked in this case.

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PLEITGEN: So he acknowledges that the safety nets as he calls them that they have did not work in this case. So that of course begs the question does Lufthansa need to make changes. He said you know what, the system that we have had in place worked for several decades.

But of course, in light of what happened here, they are going to re- evaluate and see if they have to do tougher testing to see if their pilots are mentally fit to fly -- John.

BERMAN: The subject of systems, Fred, the co-pilot was allowed to be in the cockpit alone which is prohibited here in the United States. Did he address that?

PLEITGEN: You know what, he did. I posed that question to him as well. I said in America, there always have to be at least two people inside the cockpit. He said that's not something that's required here in Europe and he also said this is also something we have been practicing for a very long time.

It's never caused any issues in the past. He also said it is something the airline is going to look into as well, see if they change that policy. He says it's not something that's necessarily going to happen quickly. However, we are also seeing that a lot of European airlines and indeed, airlines around the world are now announcing that they are looking into their procedures about at what time are people allowed to be alone in the cockpit or are they going to put in place a policy like in the U.S. where there will always have to be at least two people in the cockpit.

And so if one of the pilots were to leave the cockpit, they have to call in a flight attendant or something so no one is ever alone in that very crucial part of the aircraft -- John.

BERMAN: Other airlines have changed their policy already. Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much.

We learned just moments ago that investigators have removed boxes from the apartment of co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, in Germany. We will have new breaking details on the investigation ahead.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Continuing with the breaking news in the World Lead, Flight 9525 was deliberately flown into a mountain, that according to French authorities. It could be days, weeks, even months before we learn an exact motive behind what happened, but they are on the search right now.

Tom Fuentes joins me now, CNN law enforcement analyst. Tom, we got word moments ago that investigators have been removing boxes from the apartment of Andreas Lubitz, this 28-year-old co-pilot, who they now believe deliberately crashed this plane. What are investigators doing this evening?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They'd be taking out his computers, any papers, address books, phone books, any information to try to find out what messages has he been sending, what social media posts he may have made, who he has been calling, who he has been talking to. They need to try to as much as possible get inside his head, which is not going to be easy to do.

BERMAN: Is it always successful? Do you always have signs in cases like this?

FUENTES: No. Not always. There may be as the doctor just said a few minutes ago leakage, which the psychiatrists say are little signs that a person is changing their attitude or changing what they might do. They may stop grooming themselves, let's say, or may start saying things like why am I living, I have had enough of this.

Things that are fatalistic comments but not always and there are many cases where a person goes to their grave with the secrets of why they did it, what motivated them.

BERMAN: Now we know this pilot trained actually in Phoenix, Arizona. We know the FBI is assisting as you would expect them to do in this. The fact that he was in the United States, does that give the FBI federal investigators here something specific to look at?

FUENTES: They will be assisting the French authorities in that aspect of who was he in contact with, who did he talk to in the United States. It's standard for pilots from major airlines around the world to come here to get their FAA certifications and tests in the United States.

It's not unusual that he would have been here. Again, the authorities from the beginning would have asked the FBI to check and they will continue to ask any e-mails to an American person, phone calls, anything connected to the states.

BERMAN: What about surveillance?

FUENTES: Well, in what sense?

BERMAN: We are in big trouble with Germany for listening to their phone calls. Is there anything here we can go back and help with?

FUENTES: I doubt in this case we would have been listening to him. The Germans, we don't know. They may have their equivalent of what we had with our own NSA wiretaps or maintaining meta data or any of that. That will be something else. The Germans will lead that part of the investigation of their citizen in Germany.

BERMAN: Tom Fuentes, thanks so much. The investigation is just beginning. Check out our show page for video, blogs and extras.

That is all for us today on THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."