Continental faces Concorde crash probe

11th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 10 (AFP) - A probe into the Concorde crash five years ago near Paris entered a new phase on Thursday, when a French court placed US airline Continental under investigation for manslaughter and injuries.

PARIS, March 10 (AFP) - A probe into the Concorde crash five years ago near Paris entered a new phase on Thursday, when a French court placed US airline Continental under investigation for manslaughter and injuries.

A defence lawyer for the airline said investigating magistrate Christophe Regnard had informed the company it was under investigation.

The lawyer, Olivier Metzner, expressed confidence the airline would show during the investigation it was not responsible for the crash in which all 109 people on board as well as four people on the ground were killed.

"During this procedure we will provide all the elements which are missing from the dossier and which show that Continental Airlines is not responsible for the Concorde crash," Metzner said.

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

The piece of metal punctured the Air France Concorde's tyre, sending debris upwards into the fuel tank which then exploded.

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 metal 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."

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

"Continental has made no mistake whatsoever as concerns the Concorde crash," the lawyer said.

If liability is established in the courts the ruling could lead to millions of euros in damages claims.

On Tuesday a judicial source said a Continental Airlines vice president, Ken Burt, of the US company's technical division, had maintained that the airline did not think it was responsible for the accident during a seven and a half hours hearing before examining magistrate Regnard.

The vice president was questioned about the "famous little plate" and "how it could have been lost" from the DC-10, the lawyer said, adding that Burt "explained all that and his explanation convinced the judge."

The report said that the metal 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."

Burt told the judge that "the material was in perfect conformity and was stronger than the original material," Metzner said, insisting that the titanium alloy was allowed by the rules.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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