Airbus faces manslaughter probe over Rio-Paris crash
Airbus is to face a criminal probe for alleged manslaughter in connection with the 2009 crash of a plane en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with the loss of 228 lives, the manufacturer said Thursday.
The move came after investigating magistrate Sylvie Zimmerman summoned Airbus and Air France to appear in court to be possibly "mise en examen", a French legal term meaning there is a case to be answered in court.
"I can confirm that the investigative magistrates have put Airbus 'en examen'," the European plane manufacturer's boss Thomas Enders said following the court hearing.
The crash has been partly blamed on malfunctioning speed sensors used by Airbus, with Air France accused of not responding quickly enough to reports that they might be faulty.
Air France is to appear in court on Friday.
The announcement came ahead of the resumption of a search for the plane's wreckage in the Atlantic due on March 20 using a German mini-submarine.
No charges have yet been brought in the case, which had been suspended pending the plane's black box flight recorders being found.
A third search of the ocean floor to try to locate the black boxes ended in failure last May.
Enders said: "We strongly disagree with this position, we think it's premature.
"Nevertheless, we'll strongly support the investigation and we particularly support the next search of the black boxes because we are convinced that only behind the black boxes we'll be able to reconstruct what really happened."
Flight 447 from Rio to Paris went down roughly midway between Brazil and Senegal on June 1, 2009, in the deadliest crash in Air France's history.
The crash claimed the lives of all 228 people on board, of more than 30 nationalities. Most of those killed were French, Brazilian and German.
Air France was in December ordered to pay 727,000 dollars (540,000 euros) to relatives of a Brazilian family that died in the accident.
The airline, through its insurers, had made compensation payments to the relatives of the passengers and crew, but continues to defend itself from litigation in Brazil.
© 2011 AFP