A court in Paris has found Continental Airlines guilty of involuntary manslaughter for its part in the Air France Concorde crash in July 2000, according to recent reports.
The controversial verdict made at Pontoise Correctional Court, just a few miles away from the site of the horrific crash, declared the US carrier was ‘criminally responsible’ for the deaths of 113 people in the fatal accident just over 10 years ago. The aircraft caught fire shortly after take-off from Charles de Gaulle airport and crashed into a hotel killing all 100 passengers and crew, and 4 people on the ground.
Crash investigators stated that the supersonic aircraft had hit a titanium strip on the runway that had fallen from a Continental DC-10 aircraft moments before, causing a tyre to burst with the debris from this puncturing the aircrafts wing fuel tank, which subsequently caught fire causing the fatal crash.
This version of events was dismissed by Continental, who claimed the Concorde aircraft had actually caught fire some 700 metres before hitting the titanium strip, however civil and judicial investigators have ruled against them.
Continental was fined £170,000, and mechanic John Taylor, 42, was given a £1,700 fine and a suspended 15 month prison sentence by the court. All defendants had denied any charges of wrong doing in the trial which began last February. Judge Dominique Andreassier, found three former French aviation officials not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Henri Perrier was one such official who was cleared; he was head of the Concorde programme form 1978 to 1994 and was accused of ignoring warnings that there were weaknesses in Concorde fuel tanks. Concorde engineer, Jacques Herubel and former head of the French civil aviation, Claude Frantzen, were also both cleared of all charges.
All Concorde flights were suspended immediately for 16 months following the crash and were only resumed following extensive modifications to their fuel tanks. Both Air France and British Airways finally grounded their entire Concorde fleets in 2003.
Air France has already paid out millions in compensation to the victims families, and is pursuing Continental for negligence in a civil suit which had been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal trial.
A Continental spokesperson ruled the decision very unfair and said they would appeal against the decision as it ‘only protects French interests’.