Verdict due over deadly 2000 Concorde crash

6th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French court is to rule Monday on whether anyone was criminally responsible for the 2000 Concorde crash near Paris which killed 113 people and spelled the end for commercial supersonic air travel.

Flight 4590 to New York smashed into a hotel in a ball of fire just after take-off from Charles de Gaulle on July 25, 2000, killing 100 passengers and nine crew on board and four people on the ground.

US company Continental Airlines is the main defendant along with two of its employees and three French former aviation officials. A piece of metal that fell from a Continental plane has been blamed for causing the accident.

Continental denies that the titanium strip triggered the disaster by shredding Concorde's tyres, with lawyer Olivier Metzner insisting the supersonic jet had already been on fire for 700 metres (yards) of runway.

Metzner maintained throughout the four-month trial hearings that ended in May that Concorde operator Air France's maintenance was negligent and the plane should never have been allowed to fly.

Air France says that Continental is to blame as the fallen strip shredded a tyre which then ruptured a fuel tank and sparked the inferno.

A separate suit by Air France against Continental seeking 15 million euros (20 million dollars) in damages is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal trial.

Three French aviation officials are accused of failing to draw lessons from exploding tyre incidents that dogged Concorde from 1979 to when the fleet was permanently grounded in 2003.

They made design changes to strengthen the tyres but not the fuel tanks.

The prosecutor has called for a 175,000 euro (234,000 dollar) fine against Continental for involuntary homicide and 18-month suspended jail sentences for the two employees.

They are John Taylor, accused of incorrectly attaching the titanium strip, and Stanley Ford, who allegedly approved Taylor's maintenance work without checking it.

The prosecution has also asked for a two-year suspended jail sentence for the former head of the Concorde programme, 81-year-old Henri Perrier, but demanded the acquittal of the two other French former aviation officials.

© 2010 AFP

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