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Truck driver guilty of Mont Blanc tunnel fire

Published on 27/07/2005

27 July 2005

BRUSSELS — A Belgian truck driver was convicted on Wednesday and sentenced to a four-month suspended jail term for his role in the tragic Mont Blanc tunnel fire in 1999.

Gilbert Degrave’s truck caught fire in the tunnel near Bonneville in the French Alps. He stopped the vehicle and was lucky to escape, but the resulting tunnel fire killed 39 people.

The truck driver has continually said he was not at fault and had hoped for a suspended sentence prior to Wednesday’s ruling.

The French court found 13 individuals and companies guilty of manslaughter, including Gerard Roncoli, the head of tunnel security. He was given a six-month jail term, plus 24 months suspended.

Due to the fact Degrave was driving a Belgian-registered Volvo truck, the Swedish carmaker was also brought to trial. However, all charges against Volvo were dismissed because no design faults were found in the vehicle.

The accident occurred on 24 March 1999 when Degrave’s truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire in the middle of the 11km-long Mont Blanc tunnel. Some 39 people died and firefighters took 50 hours to extinguish the blaze.

The video camera system in the tunnel did not function properly, meaning that motorists could not be warned. The investigation also found emergency exits could not be accessed quickly enough.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news