Continental Caused Fatal Concorde Crash, Court Says

A French court found Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics guilty of involuntary homicide in the crash of an Air France Concorde aircraft more than 10 years ago.

The crash of AF 4590 occured shortly after takeoff on July 25, 2000, killing the 100 passengers and nine crew on board and four people on the ground.

Most of the passengers on the Paris-New York flight were German vacationers on their way to a South American cruise.

According to the New York Times, Judge Dominique Andréassier ordered Continental to pay a fine of $265,000 and civil damages of more than $1.3 million to Air France for "moral damages and damages to its reputation"--far less than the nearly $20 million the French carrier had sought.

John Taylor, the mechanic, was fined $2,650 and given a suspended 15-month prison sentence.
France is one of the few countries in the world that routinely launches a criminal investigation of airline crashes alongside the civil safety investigation.

Continental called the ruling "absurd" and said it would appeal the decision.

The court accepted the findings of the 2002 French air accident investigation that said a small strip of metal had fallen off a Continental DC-10 that took off minutes earlier.

The investigators determined that strip was made by Taylor of titanium, a harder metal than the aluminum that should have been used. The report said the piece punctured a tire of the Concorde as it accelerated for takeoff. The tire disintegrated and sent shards of rubber into the fuel tanks, causing a fire.

Continental's defense produced 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.

Photo, Andres Rueda, flickr

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