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A French court has found Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics, John Taylor, guilty in the 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde. John Taylor was found guilty of involuntary homicide in the Concorde crash that killed 113 people and led to the end of commercial supersonic travel. Three other criminal defendants involved in the design and certification of the plane were found not guilty.
The decision to prosecute the aviation accident in criminal courts drew heavy criticism from the aviation industry who is concerned such prosecutions will dissuade witnesses from cooperating in investigations.
Continental must pay $1.3 million in civil damages to Air France. Continental must also pay a fine of $265,000. The mechanic must pay a fine of $2,650. He also received a suspended 15-month prison sentence. The aircraft manufacturer EADS was also found responsible and must pay 30% of damages to victims involved in the case, The New York Times reports. Air France already paid an unknown amount of damages for wrongful death to the families of the victims of the Concorde.
The court found that the engineers should have acted sooner to fix design flaws. The crash was apparently caused by a titanium strip that came off a Continental DC-10 that took off moments before the Concorde. Investigators found that the strip was improperly installed.
Naturally the guilty parties disputed the verdicts: Continental called it "absurd" in a statement. "I am shocked by this verdict ... I haven't had a chance to speak with my client yet, but I will tell him that he should appeal." said Taylor's lawyer Francois Esclatine. "[Continental] will not let itself be pushed around in this way and we will definitely appeal." said Olivier Metzner, a lawyer for Continental.