A French appellate court has overturned involuntary manslaughter convictions issued in 2010 by a French trial court against Continental and one of its mechanics for their role in the July 2000 crash of Air France Flight 4590, a Concorde, that killed 113 people. The trial court had found that a metal strip, which had fallen off of a Continental DC-10 prior to the Concorde's takeoff run, was later struck by one of the Concorde's tires. The tire burst and threw fragments into a wing tank, causing a fuel leak and fire that brought the airplane down. The appellate court ruled that mistakes made by Continental or its employees did not make them guilty of criminal wrongdoing.
Combined with the result of earlier cases, the new ruling means that the French courts have assigned Continental with civil, but not criminal, responsibility in the crash of the Air France jet. Continental mechanic John Taylor was singled out in the earlier convictions for fitting the titanium wear strip that fell off the DC-10. The trial court had decided that the strip should have been made from softer metal and was improperly attached. The new ruling finds that a charge of criminal manslaughter is unjustified because even if Taylor had imagined that the metal strip could fall off, "he could never have imagined a scenario where this simple titanium blade could cause such a disaster," said Judge Michele Luga, the appellate court judge.