Air France cleared in Concorde crash enquiry

14th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

CERGY, France, Dec 14 (AFP) - Air France has been exonerated from any responsibility for the crash of one of its Concorde supersonic airliners in 2000, a legal source said Monday, on the eve of the handing over of the final investigative report into the accident which cost 113 lives.

CERGY, France, Dec 14 (AFP) - Air France has been exonerated from any responsibility for the crash of one of its Concorde supersonic airliners in 2000, a legal source said Monday, on the eve of the handing over of the final investigative report into the accident which cost 113 lives.

Such a finding could put Continental Airlines into the legal spotlight after it was found that a rogue piece of one of the US carrier's DC-10 airliners was the main cause for the crash near Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

"There is no element which would permit, as the dossier currently stands, any legal responsibility to be placed on Air France," the source said.

A design problem in Concorde, which has since been pensioned off by both Air France and BA, has also been "formally excluded," by investigating experts, he added.

On July 25, 2000 an Air France Concorde crashed in a fireball after take-off from Paris's Charles-de-Gaulle airport, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground.

The tragedy marked the beginning of the end for Concorde. The plane took to the skies again 16 months later after modifications. But in April of last year BA and Air France, the only airlines to fly the long-nosed delta-winged aircraft simultaneously announced the retirement of their Concordes.

The primary cause of the 2003 accident was found to have been a piece of debris, from a Continental Airlines DC-10 aircraft, lying on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport that shredded one of Concorde's tyres as it was taking off.

Bits of tyre flew into the fuel tank, piercing it and starting the fire that sent the world-famous supersonic aircraft plunging into a Parisian suburb.

The accident inquiry discovered that the 44-centimetre (17-inch) titanium strip which did the damage was not standard on Continental DC-10s.

Aluminium, a softer alloy which could not cut tyres, was normally used for such a component, but that was replaced with the much harder titanium strip to the US aircraft in question in the city of Houston, Texas for reasons that have not been made public.

The judge in charge of the case, Christophe Regnard, will hand a copy of his final report on the crash, after four years of expert evidence and witness testimony.

Regnard will tell them that what findings he has reached with regard to responsibility for the tragedy and how the legal process will progress from here, a source close to the investigation said.

That could mean criminal investigations being launched against individuals or companies. If Air France is exonerated, then the crash enquiry is likely to focus on Continental Airlines.

Continental Airlines executives have been summonsed for questioning by a French judge probing the 2000 Concorde crash that killed 113 people, a source close to the case said Wednesday.

The legal action launched against the executives from the US company "several days ago" amounts to them being officially put under official investigation - one step short of criminal charges being laid under French law - according to Le Parisien newspaper, which broke the story.

Continental Airlines issued a statement saying it had "received no information" from the judge, regarding the summonses and stressed: "We formally contest that Continental Airlines played a role in the Concorde accident."

The prosecutor's office was due to issue a press release on the final report on Tuesday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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