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French Court Overturns Concorde Crash Convictions

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- A French appeals court on Thursday overturned an involuntary manslaughter conviction against Continental Airlines for its involvement in the crash of an Air France Concorde jet outside Paris in 2000 that claimed 113 lives.

Air France Flight 4950 crashed in flames shortly after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport on July 25, 2000.  French aviation investigators later determined a small piece of metal that had fallen off a Continental jet that took off minutes before punctured the tire of the Concorde as it raced down the runway.  The tire blew, sending shards of rubber into a fuel tank, which caught fire.

The French court also overturned a criminal manslaughter conviction against a Continental mechanic who had installed the metal, saying the charge was unjustified.

The appeals court cleared the airline of criminal blame for the crash, but upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Continental to pay civil damages of $1.3 million to Air France.

Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based airline, which merged with United two years ago, said in a statement Thursday: “We have long maintained that neither Continental nor its employees were responsible for this tragic event and are satisfied that this verdict was overturned.”

The crash hastened the end of commercial supersonic travel, which had become a financial strain on the only two carriers that had Concordes in their fleets: Air France and British Airways.  Both carriers took the jets out of service in 2003.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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