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Court throws out manslaughter convictions in Concorde crash


A French court this week reversed the manslaughter convictions against Continental Airlines and a mechanic in the July 2000 crash of a Concorde as it took off from Paris, killing 109 people. The surprise ruling all but ends more than a decade of litigation in the case; Continental, which is now owned by United Airlines, paid out damages to Air France and the victims’ families several years ago. Accident investigators determined that the Air France Concorde crashed because it struck a metal strap on the runway as it took off, blowing a tire on the Concorde and sending pieces of rubber into the supersonic jet’s fuel tank, which exploded. Investigators traced the strap to a Continental DC-10 that had departed a few minutes ahead of the Concorde. Several weeks before the crash, a mechanic in Houston attached the wrong strap to the DC-10. A French court previously ruled that the mechanic was criminally liable for the accident for the error in attaching the strap. This week’s reversal of the convictions is noteworthy because France’s justice system often attempts to find people or companies criminally responsible in accidents. But the French appeals court found that the mechanic in Houston had no way of knowing that his error would result in the fatal crash weeks after the repair work.