Continental to appeal 'absurd' verdict in Concorde trial

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Continental Airlines will appeal today's verdict by a French court that holds both the airline and a mechanic guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the July 2000 BAC-Aerospatiale Concorde crash on the outskirts of Paris.

A metallic strip shed from a Continental Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had been blamed for bursting a tyre on the supersonic Air France aircraft during departure from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Fragments of the tyre penetrated one of Concorde's fuel tanks. leading to a fire, loss of control and crash that killed all 109 on board.

In a strongly-worded statement, the US carrier describes the verdict as "absurd" and an attempt to shift the blame for the accident away from domestic parties.

"Portraying the metal strip as the cause of the accident and Continental and one of its employees as the sole guilty parties shows the determination of the French authorities to shift attention and blame away from Air France, which was government-owned at the time and operated and maintained the aircraft, as well as from the French authorities responsible for the Concorde's airworthiness and safety," says the carrier.

"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."

While welcoming the court's decision to clear Continental supervisor Stanley Ford of charges and sharing his relief "that his decade-long nightmare is over", Continental says: "We strongly disagree with the court's verdict regarding Continental Airlines and [mechanic] John Taylor and will, of course, appeal this absurd finding."

No timescale for the appeal has yet been decided.

concorde crash, sipa press/rex features