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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 19:35 GMT
US airline 'shares crash blame'
Concorde on fire in Paris
Passengers never regained full confidence in Concorde's safety
US Continental Airlines must bear shared responsibility for the Concorde crash of 2000 which killed 113 people, a French judge has ruled.

The plane burst into flames shortly after take-off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

The judge said a metal strip that fell onto the runway from a plane belonging to Continental played a "direct" role in the accident.

The airline says it strongly disagrees it did anything to cause the crash.

In a statement, Continental said it was confident there was no basis for criminal action.

"We are outraged by what we have seen in media reports that criminal charges may be made against our company and its employees," spokesman Nick Britton said.

However, senior executives are almost certain to be called for questioning during a judicial investigation expected next year and the airline could face a criminal lawsuit and large claims for damages.

Design flaws

All 109 people on board died in the July crash, as well as four on the ground. Concorde was finally grounded in 2003.

Judge Christophe Regnard noted that Concorde had inherent design flaws, which caused the plane to burst into flames after its tyre burst.

A titanium alloy strip, which fell off a Continental Airlines DC-10 that took off five minutes earlier, played a "major role" in the tragedy, he noted.

Pieces of burst tyre punctured the plane's fuel tanks, prompting a violent mid-air explosion.

Public prosecutor Xavier Salvat said that expert testimony had convinced the judge that long-held theories about the crash were true.

The judge criticised the design of Concorde's thin fuel tanks, calling it an "important defect".

He cleared the plane's pilots of blame for the crash.

The report is the culmination of four years of investigations into the crash, and could prompt legal action by Air France against Continental Airlines.

The US airline has consistently denied any responsibility for the disaster.

All Concorde jets were grounded for more than a year in the wake of the crash.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The sequence of events that led to the fatal crash




SEE ALSO:
Concorde crash kills 113
25 Jul 00 |  Europe


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