Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Ségolène Royal goes for green

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

A look back at some of the Observers' best stories

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

DEBATE

Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run? (part 2)

Read more

  • Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

    Read more

  • Live: Israeli soldier feared captured, ceasefire 'over'

    Read more

  • Ugandan court strikes down anti-gay legislation

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

    Read more

  • €2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more

  • Dozens killed and injured in Taiwan gas blast

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

France

French court set to rule on Concorde crash

Video by Cyril VANIER

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-06

A decade after a supersonic Concorde jet crashed into a hotel outside Paris just after taking off, a French court is to finally rule Monday whether it was European engineers or an American company to blame for the consequent deaths of 113 people.

AP - A French court will rule Monday on who, if anyone, is to blame for the firey crash of a supersonic Concorde jet outside Paris a decade ago that killed 113 people soon after it took off.

The trial that started in February in Pontoise, northwest of Paris, reopened old questions over whether European engineers - or an American company, Continental Airlines - was responsible for the July 2000 crash of the European jet that symbolized elegance in trans-Atlantic air travel.
 
The verdict is expected Monday morning.
 
In the years it took French judicial investigators to work their way to trial, amassing 80,000 pages of court documents, the Concordes were revamped, retired and finally sent to museums.
 
But victims’ families will be watching the verdict closely, along with aviation experts. Some in the industry fear the high-profile trial will discourage aviation officials from freely sharing safety information, fearing what they disclose might one day be used to prosecute them.
 
French judicial and aviation investigators concluded long ago that a Continental Airlines DC-10 dropped titanium debris onto the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport before the Air France Concorde took off - a metal strip that gashed the supersonic jet’s tire and sent rubber pieces flying into the fuel tanks, causing a fire.
 
Continental contested that chain of events in court, calling up witnesses who testified the fire broke out before the plane reached the runway debris.
 
Continental lawyer Olivier Metzner argued that the U.S. airline was merely a convenient scapegoat. Houston-based Continental Airlines, Inc. and two of its U.S. employees are on trial for manslaughter.
 
Three former French officials also face the same charge; judicial investigators say they had long failed to fix the Concorde’s weak spots.
 
Continental is now part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., which was formed in October as the holding company owner of United and Continental airlines, which will eventually be combined into a single airline.
 
While France’s aviation authority concluded the Concorde crash could not have been predicted, a judicial inquiry determined that the plane’s fuel tanks lacked sufficient protection from shock and said officials had known about the problem since 1979.
 
On July 25, 2000, the Air France Concorde plunged into a hotel outside Paris soon after takeoff, killing all 109 people aboard and four on the ground. Those aboard were mostly German tourists.
 
The families of most victims were compensated years ago, and settling financial claims is not the main focus of the trial - assigning blame is.
 
FENVAC, a French association that represents victims of accidents and is a civil party in the case, says the court owes it to those who died to determine the truth.
 
During the trial, it has been “striking and shocking to see how the defendants were determined to avoid or play down any responsibility, citing probabilities, nuances of terminology, failing memory, obscure rules and other means of artifice,” the group said in a statement Friday.
 
In France, unlike in many other countries, plane crashes routinely lead to trials to assign criminal responsibility. It is common for cases to drag on for years.
 
In 2009, France’s highest court finally confirmed the acquittal of all those originally accused of responsibility in an Air Inter crash that killed 87 people in 1992 - 17 years earlier.
 
A prosecutor asked the court to fine Continental ¤175,000 ($231,000) and requested 18-month suspended prison sentences for two American employees of Continental, mechanic John Taylor and his now-retired supervisor Stanley Ford.
 
The prosecution requested a two-year suspended sentence for Henri Perrier, former head of the Concorde program at plane maker Aerospatiale, and argued for acquitting French engineer Jacques Herubel and Claude Frantzen, former chief of France’s civil aviation authority.
 
Lawyers for the three French officials argued they were not to blame and say the crash could not have been foreseen.
 
Manslaughter charges can carry penalties of up to five years in prison, but observers say suspended prison sentences would be more likely in this case.
 

 

Date created : 2010-12-06

  • AVIATION

    Concorde: a timeline

    Read more

  • AVIATION

    Concorde crash trial verdict due in December

    Read more

  • AVIATION

    Ten years on, French court asks who's to blame for Concorde crash

    Read more

COMMENT(S)