Continental Airlines chief quizzed over Concorde crash

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 8 (AFP) - The US company Continental Airlines was widely expected to be placed under judicial investigation Tuesday over its role in the Concorde crash five years ago which a report found was triggered by a piece of metal that fell from a Continental DC-10.

PARIS, March 8 (AFP) - The US company Continental Airlines was widely expected to be placed under judicial investigation Tuesday over its role in the Concorde crash five years ago which a report found was triggered by a piece of metal that fell from a Continental DC-10.

Ken Burt, the American vice-president of the company's technical division, appeared early afternoon before an examining magistrate for a "first questioning with a view to being place under investigation," according to judicial sources.

The company itself was also likely to be placed under investigation for "involuntary homicide and injuries," they said.

Under French law a judicial investigation is normally a first step towards eventual criminal charges.

A judicial enquiry into the crash of the supersonic airliner near Charles de Gaulle airport in July 2000 concluded in December that a titanium alloy strip fell from the Continental Airlines DC-10 that took off just before the Concorde.

The piece of metal punctured the Concorde's tyre, sending debris upwards into the fuel tank which then exploded. All 109 people on board as well as four people on the ground were killed.

The report said the strip played a "direct" role in the accident, although a "relative weakness" on the interior surface of the Concorde's distinctive delta-shaped wings which held its fuel tanks also contributed.

It said that the titanium alloy strip installed by Continental Airlines was a replacement part whose usage was not sanctioned by the American civil aviation authorities and that "the rules of aeronautical metal construction were not respected by the employees of Continental Airlines."

A source close to the investigation said these conclusions made it "logical" that the company be placed under judicial investigation.

Continental Airlines has denied responsibility for the crash and said it would fight any criminal charges stemming from a French probe of the accident.

"We strongly disagree that anything Continental did was the cause of the Concorde accident and we are outraged that media reports have said criminal charges may be made against our company and its employees," spokeswoman Rahsaan Johnson said in a statement released after publication of the report.

"We are confident that there is no basis for a criminal action and we will defend any charges in the appropriate courts."

If liability was established in the courts it could lead to millions of euros in damages claims.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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