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French Court Finds Continental Airlines and Mechanic Guilty In 2000 Concord Crash

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Paris, FranceContinental Airlines and one of its mechanics have been found guilty of involuntary homicide relating to their roles in the crash of an Air France Concorde in 2000. The plane crash, which killed all 109 passengers and crew members and four people on the ground, helped bring to an end the era of commercial supersonic passenger travel.

The judge has ordered Continental to pay civil damages of $1.3 million to Air France, and has fined the American airline $265,000. The mechanic was also fined $2,650 and given a suspended 15-month sentence. John Taylor, the 42-year old mechanic was found to be at fault for having used titanium rather than a softer metal like aluminum, to construct a replacement piece for the DC-10 called a "wear strip."

According to a report in the New York Times, the court also accused Taylor of improperly attaching the strip to the aircraft, resulting in it falling onto the runway. In 2002 French air accident investigators reported that a small strip of metal that had fallen off a Continental DC-10 that took off minutes earlier had punctured a tire of the Concorde as it accelerated down the runway on July 25, 2000. The tire took only seconds to disintegrate, investigators said, sending shards of rubber into the fuel tanks which resulted in the plane crashing into a hotel near the airport, flames bursting from its undercarriage.

Continental said it would appeal the "absurd" ruling, which is the result of over a decade of wrangling in French courts. "To find that any crime was committed in this tragic accident is not supported either by the evidence at trial or by aviation authorities and experts around the world," Nick Britton, a Continental spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Continental reached a settlement of $150 million in 2001 with the families of people killed in the accident.

The crash of Air France Flight 4590 was the only fatal accident involving the supersonic jets since they began flying in 1969.

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