Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tragedy was manslaughter

A French court on Monday found Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of 113 people who perished in the crash of a New York-bound Air France Concorde jet 10 years ago, ruling that debris from a Continental plane caused the tragedy.

Continental and its mechanic improperly monitored and maintained aircraft, resulting in a piece of titanium falling from a plane onto a runway at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport a few minutes before the ill-fated Concorde took off July 25, 2000, said Judge Dominique Andreassier at a courthouse in Pontoise, northwest of Paris.

The court said it believed the roughly 16-inch piece of metal known as a wear strip punctured a tire on the Air France jet as it sped down the runway for takeoff, and that debris perforated the jet's low-lying fuel tank, causing a leak and a fire. One minute and 51 seconds after takeoff, the jet crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, north of Paris, killing 100 passengers, nine crew members and four people on the ground.

The court ordered Continental to pay the bulk of hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to Air France, relatives of victims and others involved in the case. Continental also was fined about $265,000 for "manslaughter by a legal entity and unintentional injuries." Mechanic John Taylor, who lives in Texas, was fined $2,650 and ordered to serve a 15-month suspended prison sentence. Continental and Taylor are expected to appeal the ruling.

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