Concorde crash: Continental Airlines killings verdict quashed

media captionAmateur video caught the final moments before Concorde crashed

A French appeals court has cleared US airline Continental of criminal blame for the July 2000 crash of a Concorde jet shortly after take-off from Paris.

The ruling comes two years after another French court fined the airline and held it criminally responsible for the crash in which 113 people died.

But Continental may still be liable for damages after the court said the firm still bore civil responsibility.

A piece of metal from a Continental jet was blamed for causing the crash.

But Continental labelled the initial court decision and its explanation absurd, and launched an appeal.

The Air France Concorde burst into flames and crashed into nearby buildings after it took off from Charles de Gaulle airport, killing all 109 people on board and four hotel workers.

Most of the passengers were German tourists heading to New York to join a cruise to the Caribbean.

In 2010, a French court decided that the crash had been caused by a titanium strip that had fallen from a Continental airliner.

The US operator was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, fined 200,000 euros (£160,000) and ordered to pay 1m euros in damages to Air France.

In addition, a Continental mechanic, John Taylor, was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence over the crash.

Thursday's ruling overturned the criminal convictions of Mr Taylor and Continental and quashed the 200,000-euro fine.

But the court said Continental still bore civil responsibility and upheld the 1m-euro payment.

Separately, Air France is suing Continental for 15m euros at a commercial tribunal.

The US airline had consistently argued that the Concorde caught fire before it hit the metal strip, and that they were being used as a scapegoat to protect France's airline industry.

Continental merged with United Airlines earlier this year.

The airline's parent firm, United Continental Holdings, said in a statement it supported the court's decision that Continental was not to blame.

"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 statement said.

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