Continental faces charges over Concorde crash which killed 113

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The Independent Online

The US carrier Continental Airlines should face manslaughter charges over the Concorde crash in July 2000, a French public prosecutor has said.

A French engineer involved in development of the supersonic jet – which was taken out of service in October 2003 – should be similarly charged, according to an investigation.

A judicial inquiry after the crash concluded that a piece of metal that had fallen off a Continental airliner caused one of Concorde's tyres to burst on take-off, catapulting debris through the wing.

The plane, which had taken off from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, crashed into a hotel outside the French capital, killing all 113 people on board.

Onlookers watched in horror as the distinctive plane struggled to gain altitude, with flames pouring out behind it, seconds after it had left the runway. The pilot tried in vain to divert to a nearby airport.

A judge is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether bring charges, accepting the demand which was filed by the Pontoise prosecutor's office.

As early as August 2000, the French Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) said it was focusing on a burst tyre which was believed to have triggered a chain of events resulting in the subsequent crash.

"The 25 July accident shows that the destruction of a tyre, an event that we cannot say will not reoccur, had catastrophic consequences in a short period of time, preventing the crew from rectifying the situation," the BEA said at the time.

Investigators also confirmed that a 40cm (16in) metal strip – believed to be from another plane - had been found on the runway at the airport. Continental Airlines, which declined to comment last night, said at the time that one of its DC-10 aircraft was missing a metal piece similar to that which was found.