Concorde Crash Trial Begins

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Five people, including two Continental Airlines employees, face up to five years in prison if a French court finds them responsible for the crash of an Air France Concorde supersonic airliner near Paris almost 10 years ago. A four-month trial has begun into the July 25, 2000, crash that killed all 109 people on the airplane and four employees of the hotel the airliner, trailing a tongue of flame, hit when it crashed. The five, along with Continental itself, are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The case centers around investigators' findings that a piece of metal fell from a Continental DC-10 that departed Charles de Gaulle Airport immediately before the Concorde started its roll. The investigation says the metal, which was traced to the DC-10, shredded a tire on the Concorde and debris pierced the brim-full fuel tanks causing the fire that brought the aircraft down. Continental will argue that maintenance and design faults led to the disaster and that the aircraft involved should not have been flying that day.

The Continental employees on trial are welder John Taylor and his supervisor at the time, Stanley Ford. The French citizens facing trial are Henri Perrier, the former director of the Concorde program, Jacques Herubel, the former chief engineer of the program, and Claude Frantzen, the former head of France's civil aviation authority. In addition to the five years in prison, they could be fined $75,000 Euros. The airline could be fined $375,000 Euros.