Concorde Trial Prosecutors Seek Sentences, Fines, For Manslaughter

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Prosecutors pushing manslaughter charges over the fatal crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris in July 2000 are seeking a fine of $220,000 against Continental Airlines and Friday argued for a two-year suspended jail sentence for an 80-year-old engineer. Henri Perrier directed the Concorde program from 1978 to 1994 and was involved in the first Concorde flight in 1969. He is accused of ignoring a string of evidence prosecutors say laid warning signs before the crash. Perrier has denied the charges, telling reporters, "I will not accept being held responsible for this accident." Continental is blamed by prosecutors for losing a metal strip from one of its DC10s as it departed Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport ahead of the Concorde. Investigators believe the Concorde's tires ran over the strip at high speed during its takeoff roll, initiating the accident chain. The trial in France charges Continental and five individuals with manslaughter. Air France, which operated the flight, paid millions of dollars in compensation to families of the victims but avoided blame from investigators.

The crash killed 113 people on July 25, 2000, after a the forward right tire on the jet's left main gear burst on takeoff, throwing debris into a wing tank. The tank spilled fuel that ignited. This happened after the aircraft had achieved V1. Prior to taking the runway the pilot had broadcast to the tower his emergency procedures, stating that past V1, he would continue outbound. And so it was that the flight was on fire as it left the runway. The crew was alerted to the fire by tower controllers and the flight's engineer identified problems with Engine 2 (of four), and announced "shut down Engine 2." At that time, the jet was operating in a weight, speed, and drag regime that demanded thrust from four engines to climb. When Engine 1 began to lose power, the aircraft crashed into a hotel, killing all 109 on board and four on the ground.