US families must sue in France over 2009 crash

17th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Relatives of US victims of the 2009 Rio-Paris Air France crash seeking compensation from US plane part makers must take their legal action in France, a US court ruled Thursday.

The families are seeking personal injury claims against US companies including General Electric, Honeywell and Intel, but a federal judge in California said their case should be heard in France and not the United States.

A total of 228 people died when the plane plunged into the Atlantic ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. It took investigators until last month to salvage the black-box flight recorders from the wreck on the ocean bed.

The US District Court for northern California had already rejected a plea for legal action to be allowed in the US in October 2010, and Judge Charles Breyer reaffirmed that Thursday.

"Once again, the court concludes that the United States is not the proper forum," he said in the 16-page ruling.

He added that recent developments in the crash investigation -- including the recovery of the Airbus 330 plane's black box recorders -- made it even more reasonable for legal action to be taken in France and not in the United States.

"Access to that evidence will be easier in France, where it is being held, than here. In addition, French authorities continue to investigate the crash's cause, and Air France and Airbus (but no American companies) have been indicted by French authorities for involuntary manslaughter," said the ruling.

The US ruling came as the last 104 salvaged bodies and the wreckage from the Air France flight arrived by boat in France on Thursday and were taken to Paris for analysis.

A salvage ship carried two containers of wreckage from the plane and two refrigerated containers with the remains of 104 of the victims, recovered from more than 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) under the sea.

According to information from the flight data recorders, released earlier by the BEA aviation authority, the pilots saw conflicting speeds on their instruments as the plane stalled and fell into the sea.

The BEA is due to deliver a report in July on the causes of the crash.

© 2011 AFP

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