A French court has found Continental Airlines criminally responsible for the deaths of 113 people in the crash of an Air France Concorde ten years ago.
The US carrier was fined €202,000 and one of its mechanics received a fine of €2,000 and a 15-month suspended prison sentence.
The mechanic was the only person found guilty in the trial in Paris. His former supervisor and three French officials were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The supersonic aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, hitting a hotel and killing all 100 passengers, crew and four people on the ground.
The Concorde hit a titanium strip that had fallen from a Continental DC-10 minutes before, according to crash investigators.
This burst one of the Concorde’s tyres with the debris bursting a hole in the aircraft’s wing fuel tank, which subsequently caught fire and led to the aircraft losing control.
Continental had argued that the Concorde’s undercarriage was on fire some 700 metres before it hit the titanium strip.
This version of events was rejected by civil and judicial investigators. Concorde flights were suspended for 16 months after the crash and only resumed after extensive modifications to the fuel tanks.
Air France and British Airways finally grounded the aircraft in 2003.
Air France paid out millions in compensation to the families of the victims and is pursuing Continental for negligence in a civil suit, which has been suspended pending the verdict of the criminal trial.
Prosecutors in the criminal case, who argue that proper maintenance procedures were not followed in applying the titanium strip, have called for a €175,000 ($275,000) fine for the US airline, and suspended prison sentences for three of the five individuals involved.
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