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France court convicts US airline in Concorde jet crash

A French court on Monday found US-based Continental Airlines [corporate website] and one of its employees guilty of manslaughter for their roles in the Air France Concorde jet crash [BBC backgrounder] outside Paris in 2000. The court found [CBC report] that a piece of metal fell off a Continental plane and onto the runway, later causing damage to the Concorde that led to the crash. The court also convicted Continental mechanic John Taylor for improperly maintaining the plane that used the runway prior to the Concorde, sentencing him to a 15-month suspended sentence and a USD $2,670 fine. Continental was ordered to pay Air France USD $1.44 million for damage to its reputation and fines of roughly USD $267,000. Additionally, the court awarded several civil parties USD $362,000 in damages to be paid by Continental and Taylor. The other defendants, including two former high-ranking Concorde employees and the retired head of the French aviation authority, were acquitted. Continental stated that it intends to appeal the ruling.

The trial, which began [JURIST report] in February, faced criticism [Daily Mail report] for starting a decade after the accident and after victims' families received settlements in 2001 and the Concorde jet was officially retired by all airlines in 2003. More than 100 people died when Air France Concorde flight 4590 crashed into a hotel shortly after takeoff in July 2000. The French Bureau of Investigations and Analysis (BEA) [official website, in French] concluded [report, in French, PDF] in 2004 that the crash was caused by a metal strip that fell from the Continental Airlines flight and pierced the Concorde's tire.

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