Continental guilty in Concorde crash
Pontoise - A French court found Continental Airlines Incorporated and one of its mechanics guilty of manslaughter on Monday in the crash of a supersonic Concorde jet outside Paris a decade ago that killed 113 people.
The court in the Paris suburb of Pontoise ruled the Houston-based airline must pay a $265 000 fine, and one of its mechanics, John Taylor, must pay $2 650 over the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde. The victims were mostly German tourists.
Taylor was also handed a 15-month suspended prison sentence. All other defendants, including Taylor's now-retired supervisor Stanley Ford, were acquitted in the verdict.
A message left with Continental's communications department was not immediately answered.
The presiding judge confirmed investigators' long-held belief that titanium debris dropped by a Continental DC-10 onto the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport before the Concorde took off was to blame. Investigators said debris gashed the Concorde's tire, propelling bits of rubber into the fuel tanks and sparking a fire.
Three former French officials also facing manslaughter charges were acquitted.
Compensation already paid
While France's aviation authority concluded the crash could not have been foreseen, a judicial inquiry said the aircraft's fuel tanks lacked sufficient protection from shock and said officials had known about the problem for more than 20 years.
On July 25 2000, an Air France Concorde spewed flames as it took off from Charles de Gaulle, then slammed into a nearby hotel. All 109 people aboard and four on the ground died.
The families of most victims were compensated years ago, so financial claims were not the trial's focus - the main goal was to assign responsibility. It is not uncommon for such cases to take years to reach trial in France.
Continental is now part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Incorporated, which was formed in October as the holding company owner of United and Continental airlines, which will eventually be combined into a single airline.