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article imageFrench court overturns Concorde crash verdict

By Layne Weiss     Nov 29, 2012 in Crime
Paris - A French appeals court has overturned manslaughter convictions against Continental Airlines and a mechanic for the 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde in which 113 people died.
The Concorde, which was operated jointly by Air France and British Airways, proved to be a total disaster and stopped running in 2003, The Associated Press reports.
The accident occurred on July 25, 2000 when the jet crashed into a hotel and burst into flames. 109 people were killed on-board the plane while four were killed on the ground.
In 2010, a French court fined Continental Airlines and ruled it was criminally responsible for the crash.
Thursday's ruling quashes Continental's criminal responsibility, but according to BBC News, Continental may still be responsible for damages as the court upheld the decision that the airline was civilly responsible. It was decided that metal from the jet caused the crash, the LA Times reports.
In the original ruling, the court found that a Continental Airlines mechanic in Houston fitted the wrong metal strip on the jet, The Associated Press reports.
The metal piece fell off on the runway at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. This ultimately led to the fire that brought down the plane.
The mechanic, John Taylor, was initially held criminally responsible along with Continental for the mistake. Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence, BBC News reports.
On Thursday, Judge Michele Luga said there was no way Taylor could have known the metal strip would have caused such horrific damage. Luga said in court that even if Taylor had known the metal strip was the wrong size, "he could have never imagined a scenario where the this simple titanium blade could cause such a disaster," The Associated Press reports.
Olivier Metzner, the attorney representing Continental was happy with the ruling declaring his client was no longer the "scapegoat," The NY Times reports. Metzner maintains that French air regulators are to blame for the accident.
"This is the end of the Concorde affair," he said.
While Continental is no longer being held as criminally responsible for the crash, the court made no new ruling on its civil responsibility. Therefore, according to BBC News, the airline, which merged with United earlier this year, must still pay Air France 1 million euros.
Air France was never accused in the Concorde case, but in 2001, the airline reached a $150,000 settlement with the families of the crash victims, The NY Times reports.
In a separate case, Air France is suing Continental Airlines. BBC News reports that Air France is asking for 15 million euros.
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