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Copycats in Pilot Aircraft-Assisted Suicides after the Germanwings Incident

Mehiläinen Kielotie Health Centre, Vantaa 01300, Finland
Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki and Mehiläinen Airport Health Centre, Lentäjäntie 1 E, 01530 Vantaa, Finland
Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK
Centre for Aviation Psychology, London NW3 1ND, UK
Center for Human Identification, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 3500 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA
Center of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research (CEGMR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21577, Saudi Arabia
The Maitland Hospital, Maitland 2320, Australia
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, 33100 Tampere, Finland
Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contribute equally to this work
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(3), 491;
Received: 18 January 2018 / Revised: 7 March 2018 / Accepted: 8 March 2018 / Published: 11 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Suicide Research)
PDF [301 KB, uploaded 11 March 2018]


Aircraft-assisted pilot suicide is a rare but serious phenomenon. The aim of this study was to evaluate changes in pilot aircraft-assisted suicide risks, i.e., a copycat effect, in the U.S. and Germany after the Germanwings 2015 incident in the French Alps. Aircraft-assisted pilot suicides were searched in the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigation database and in the German Bundestelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung (BFU) Reports of Investigation database five years before and two years after the deliberate crash of the Germanwings flight into the French Alps in 2015. The relative risk (RR) of the aircraft-assisted pilot suicides was calculated. Two years after the incident, three out of 454 (0.66%) fatal incidents were aircraft-assisted suicides compared with six out of 1292 (0.46%) in the prior five years in the NTSB database. There were no aircraft-assisted pilot suicides in the German database during the two years after or five years prior to the Germanwings crash. The relative aircraft-assisted pilot suicide risk for the U.S. was 1.4 (95% CI 0.3–4.2) which was not statistically significant. Six of the pilots who died by suicide had told someone of their suicidal intentions. We consider changes in the rate to be within a normal variation. Responsible media coverage of aircraft incidents is important due to the large amount of publicity that these events attract. View Full-Text
Keywords: aircraft-assisted pilot suicide; copycat phenomenon; Werther effect; aviation safety aircraft-assisted pilot suicide; copycat phenomenon; Werther effect; aviation safety
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Laukkala, T.; Vuorio, A.; Bor, R.; Budowle, B.; Navathe, P.; Pukkala, E.; Sajantila, A. Copycats in Pilot Aircraft-Assisted Suicides after the Germanwings Incident. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 491.

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