Just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger – a French Judge has convicted Continental Airlines of involuntary homicide for a piece of metal falling off one of their airplanes which is believed to contributed to the Air France Concorde crash in 2000. I am not terribly sure how the French Court could assign blame here – much less a criminal penalty.
The only thing I can see Continental guilty of, in my experience… Is losing bags.
A French judge ruled on Monday that Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics were guilty of involuntary homicide for their role in the 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde jet that killed 113 people.
Judge Dominique Andréassier of the court in Pontoise, northwest of Paris, ordered the American carrier to pay a fine of $265,000 and civil damages of more than $1.3 million to Air France. John Taylor, 42, the mechanic, was fined $2,650 and given a suspended 15-month prison sentence.
Henri Perrier, 81, considered the “father” of the iconic supersonic jet and an executive of Aérospatiale, the company that built the Concorde, and two other French officials, Jacques Hérubel, and Claude Frantzen, formerly of the French airline regulator who certified the plane’s airworthiness, were acquitted.
A 2002 report by French air accident investigators concluded that a small strip of metal had fallen off a Continental DC-10 that took off minutes earlier and that the piece punctured a tire of the Concorde as it accelerated down the runway on July 25, 2000. The tire disintegrated in seconds, investigators said, sending shards of rubber into the fuel tanks and causing a catastrophic fire. All 109 passengers and crew members were killed, along with 4 people on the ground.
Olivier Metzner, the French lawyer for Continental in the case, vigorously challenged the investigators’ findings in court, however, and presented a starkly different scenario. Mr. Metzner argued that the investigators disregarded accounts of the accident from more than 20 witnesses who said the plane appeared to have caught fire at a point on the runway several yards before it reached the metal strip.
Continental said it would appeal the “absurd” ruling, which took more than a decade to work its way through the French courts. “To find that any crime was committed in this tragic accident is not supported either by the evidence at trial or by aviation authorities and experts around the world,” Nick Britton, a Continental spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.