French judge calls Continental in Concorde probe

8th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP) - 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.

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP) - 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.

"Several executives from the company have been summonsed to see the investigating judge to be questioned over the incident," the source told AFP, confirming the newspaper's report.

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

The French move follows an inquiry's finding that the crash of the New York-bound Concorde on July 25, 2000 was caused by a titanium strip on the runway at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport that had fallen off a Continental DC-10 which had taken off five minutes earlier.

The strip tore through the Concorde's tyres, sending chunks of rubber through a wing fuel tank and bringing the supersonic plane plummeting to the ground in a fireball. All 109 passengers and crew died, as did four people on the ground.

The accident inquiry discovered that the 44-centimetre (17-inch) titanium strip 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.

Regnard - who has opened a case for manslaughter - summonsed the Continental executives to explain the modification.

According to Regnard's office, "the fact that the strip from the DC-10 was of different material, titanium, than that originally used, had a direct incidence in the Concorde's crash."

The judge wanted to know why the strip was replaced with the tougher metal and under what circumstances. It was not yet known whether the executives would be questioned on French or US territory.

Representatives of Boeing - which took over the Douglas Aircraft Company that made the DC-10 - have already been questioned, along with those from the engine-maker and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Their responses indicated that the strip in question should have been made of aluminium, not titanium, the French source said.

A French lawyer specialising in industrial lawsuits, Jean-Francois Carlot, said that "if Continental Airlines did not respect the manufacturer's instructions, it could be held responsible."

A source close to the investigation added that it was believed the titanium strip fell off the DC-10 because of a maintenance oversight.

Regnard was to submit his final report on the accident Tuesday next week. That document was likely to apportion responsibility for the cause of the accident and possibly lead to criminal investigations being launched against individuals or companies.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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