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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Suicidal Pilot Responsible for Deadly Plane Crash

, Morocco -- The pilot of a Royal Air Maroc plane that crashed Sunday killing 44 people caused the accident because he wanted to commit suicide, the government said Thursday.


The Transport Ministry said in a statement that preliminary examination of the doomed plane's two flight recorders in a Paris laboratory showed the crash was due to "the pilot's wish to put an end to his life."


"To do this he switched off the automatic pilot and directed the aircraft at the ground," the statement added.


On a domestic flight from Agadir to Casablanca, the plane fell out of the sky and crashed after Sofia Figuigui, the woman co-pilot, radioed "Mayday, Mayday, the pilot is ..."


The message was cut off at this point when the plane was flying at 5,000 meters, airport officials said, and it plummeted to earth. The crash happened 10 minutes after takeoff.


The statement said the Casablanca-born pilot, Younes Khyati, 32, was experienced with 4,500 flying hours. He was professionally and physically fit, and had undergone annual medical visits, the last one on July 7. He was tested for professional competence four weeks ago.


According to experts, a crash caused by a suicidal pilot is a first for modern aviation history.


"This looks fairly unique. It is certainly unique in modern airline history," said David Learmount, the aviation safety expert for the London-based weekly magazine Flight International.


Learmount said after checking records going back to 1946 he could find no incidents where the pilot had committed suicide.


The ministry said a commission of inquiry was trying to determine motives for the pilot's "incomprehensible gesture."


The flight recorders, generally known as "black boxes," were flown to a Paris laboratory Monday after being recovered from wreckage scattered over a wide area in the mountains 35 kilometers north of Agadir.


French aviation officials in Paris said data from the recorders supported a statement by Moroccan investigators that the pilot committed suicide.


A spokeswoman for the plane's Franco-Italian manufacturer, Avions Regional de Transport, said: "It was horrific for the poor woman co-pilot who tried to talk him out of it."