Story highlights

Patrick Sondenheimer's grandmother describes him as a loving father

German media report he decided to fly for Germanwings to be closer to his family

Social media posts describe him as a hero for trying to save the flight

CNN  — 

Patrick Sondenheimer loved his work as a pilot.

But the 34-year-old captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 was also a loving father, his grandmother said.

“I am devastated,” said his grandmother, who asked for privacy for the family. “His death came so sudden and it leaves my whole family in shock.”

Sondenheimer is one of 150 people who died last week when the plane crashed in the French Alps on its way from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Authorities have accused the plane’s co-pilot of deliberately downing the jet, but are still investigating what caused the crash and trying to pinpoint what his motive may have been.

Investigators haven’t officially released the captain’s name, and in many German media reports he’s described simply as “Patrick S.” But several relatives confirmed his identity to CNN.

He had logged more than 6,000 hours of flight time, had been with Germanwings since May 2014 and had worked with Lufthansa and Condor before that, the Germanwings press office said.

The married father of a 3-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter switched to flying for the budget airline so he could be closer to his family, the Independent reported, citing German media.

In a leaked transcript that purportedly documents the flight’s final moments, Sondenheimer – locked out of the cockpit after a bathroom break – pleads with the co-pilot to let him back in as the plane plunges down toward the French Alps.

“Open the damn door!” he says at one point in a recording from one of the plane’s so-called black boxes, according to a report published by German tabloid newspaper Bild.

The recording, according to Bild, also includes the sounds of loud metallic bangs that sound like someone trying to knock down the cockpit door.

“He deserves the German Medal of Honor for his heroic attempt to break into the cockpit,” his grandmother told CNN.

As details emerge about Sondenheimer and Flight 9525’s final moments, a chorus of social media users has also hailed him as a hero.

Over the weekend, Sondenheimer’s father and other family members visited a memorial for the victims in the French Alps.

Francois Balique, mayor of Le Vernet, met with them there. He described the captain’s father as a broken man, with many questions about why the crash had happened.

Investigators haven’t said much about the captain, but they’ve emphasized that it seems he did everything he could to try to get back into the cockpit after he was locked out.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said last week that “violent blows as if to break down the door” are audible in the cockpit voice recording.

“He must have realized what was going on,” Robin said. “And if he’d been able to open the door … the captain would have done it.”

CNN’s Felix Gussone, David Fitzpatrick, Bharati Naik, Tim Lister, Pamela Brown, Karl Penhaul and Dorrine Mendoza contributed to this report.