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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Relatives remember Concorde crash
Family members wept at an emotional memorial service
Families of the 113 victims of the Paris Concorde crash have gathered at Charles De Gaulle airport to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

About 150 relatives of those who died held white roses and wept as a plaque dedicated to the victims was unveiled.

A plaque to the victims was unveiled
The supersonic airliner plunged into a hotel at the small town of Gonesse moments after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport.

All the passengers and crew on board died and four people on the ground were killed.

The president of Air France, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, made a brief speech at the ceremony.

A poem was read and flowers were laid by the plaque. The ceremony ended with a moment of silence.

A second plaque was placed in Air France's headquarters in memory of the 13 crew members who died in the accident. Air France staff around the world observed a minute's silence.

The crash site in the northern Paris suburbs was opened for the first time to allow mourners to grieve on the spot where the plane plunged to the ground.

The area has been sealed off over the past year while a judicial investigation into the crash continues. The ground is still contaminated with fuel.

A multi-faith service is taking place on Wednesday evening at the Saint Sulpice church in Paris's Latin quarter. Family members will be joined by government officials, including French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and members of Air France's management.

Concorde on fire
After the fire broke out, the pilots were helpless
Earlier this year, relatives agreed a compensation deal with Air France believed to be worth $150m.

Residents of Gonesse paid their respects at a simple ceremony near the site, laying wreaths and observing a minute's silence.

They remembered the horror they felt as they saw the plane heading towards their homes.

"I saw the Concorde coming towards me and I thought my last seconds had come," said Gonesse resident Patrick Tesse.

Train of events

Concorde Flight AF4590 flew for just one minute on 25 July before ploughing into a small hotel at Gonesse.

Concorde taking off
Concorde is due to fly again in the autumn
Shortly after take-off the control tower radioed Concorde's crew warning, "you have flames behind you, you have flames behind you".

The pilots started an emergency landing attempt at the nearby Le Bourget airport, but it was hopeless.

They could not gain height, increase speed or pull in the undercarriage.

Investigations have revealed the plane hit a piece of metal on the runway, bursting a tyre which then threw up debris, puncturing the fuel tanks and causing the fatal fire.

Although there was speculation that the plane may have been overloaded or poorly maintained, an interim report by French air investigators on Monday rejected these theories and confirmed that the burst tyre was the cause of the crash.

Airborne again

Concorde flights have been grounded since the tragedy but British Airways plans to resume service in September.

Air France, Concorde's other operator, is set to follow, taking to the skies again in October.

Since the accident 17m has been spent improving the safety of the aircraft.

Fuel tanks have been reinforced and the plane's wheels redesigned.

The re-designed Concorde completed a successful test-flight last week, taking off from London's Heathrow airport and flying over Iceland before returning to the Royal Air Force base at Brize Norton.

The BBC's Jon Sopel
"Local people are angry that there seems to be more concern about the plane than the people who perished"

Return to the skies?

The investigation

The crash





See also:

23 Jul 01 | UK
Autumn return for Concorde
13 May 01 | Europe
Relatives accept Concorde cash
23 Jul 01 | Talking Point
Can Concorde regain its status?
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